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New Orleans’ Essence draws ‘record’ 4bn impressions

Essence Festival – an annual celebration of African-American music at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome (76,468-cap.) in New Orleans – welcomed more than 470,000 attendees to its 24th edition last week, increasing attendance by 25,000 and garnering what organisers call a “record-breaking” four billion impressions on social media.

Complementing a night-time concert series (headliners were Diana Ross, John Legend, Chance the Rapper and Mary J. Blige), the festival once again featured “entertainment, empowerment and cultural experiences” targeted at black Americans, with actress Halle Berry, film director Ava DuVernay, civil-rights campaigner Al Sharpton and spiritual leader Iyanla Vanzant among the more than 100 speakers.

In addition to increasing attendance by ~6%, organisers say posts tagged with the #EssenceFest hashtag drew 4bn+ impressions on social media, with the festival also trending daily on Twitter.

This, say promoters, is a new record – although it should be noted iHeartRadio claimed its 2015 festival generated more than 6.5bn impressions. (New record or not, 4bn social engagements with an arguably fairly niche festival is undeniably impressive.)

Essence Festival is produced by Essence Festivals LLC, a division of Essence Communications (the publisher of the eponymous magazine), and New Orleans-based Solomon Group. Sponsors in 2017 included AT&T, Ford, McDonald’s, Walmart and naming partner Coca-Cola.


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Festival Focus: Bluesfest, Bestival, First Fifty

Peter Noble’s Byron Bay Bluesfest has added six new acts to its 2017 bill, building on its initial line-up announcement late last month.

Mary J. Blige, Corinne Bailey Rae, Michael Kiwanuka, Nahko and Medicine for the People, Gallant and The Suffers will all perform at the 28th event at Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm in Byron Bay, New South Wales, next Easter.

Noble says: “We have had some truly amazing artists play Bluesfest, and to continue in that vein, we proudly announce Mary J. Blige as the headliner of our R&B/soul-flavoured second announcement. With over 50 million albums and 25 million singles sold, and 32 Grammy nominations with nine wins, the greatest female soul singer of our time is coming. To say I am chuffed she is coming to Bluesfest is an absolute understatement.”

The festival says ticket sales have been “through the roof” since the first line-up announcement. (Michael Kiwanuka photo by Rene Passet.)

Michael Kiwanuka, Into the Great Wide Open 2011, Rene Passet

In urban Australia, meanwhile, Tame Impala, Camp Hope, Nick Murphy (the man formerly known as Chet Faker), Jagwar Ma, Tourist and ETEP queen Aurora will play multi-city event St Jerome’s Laneway in January and February.

The festival will visit Brisbane, Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth, as well as Auckland and (minus Tame Impala) Singapore, from 26 January. (Jagwar Ma photo by Olivier Bourgi.)

Jagwar Ma, Dour Festival 2014, Olivier Bourgi

The first wave of acts have been announced for the third edition of ski/snowboard-themed event Rise Festival, which will take place at the Les 2 Alpes ski resort in the French Alps from 10 to 17 December.

Headlining the 3,000-capacity festival, from promoters Running Wild and Wasteland Ski, will be Kano (pictured) and Seth Troxler, with other newly confirmed artists including Metrik, Artful Dodger, MidlandArtworkJackmasterFred V and Monki.


Voodoo Music and Arts Experience, which takes place on Hallowe’en weekend (28 to 30 October) at City Park in New Orleans, have announced its 2016 line-up.

Tool, The Weeknd and Arcade Fire (fresh from European headline slots at NOS Alive and Bilbao BBK Live) will headline, with Foals, Die Antwoord, Cage the Elephant, The Chainsmokers and Band of Horses also on the bill.

Here’s a poster:

Voodoo Music and Arts Experience 2016 line-up

Bestival will return next year, promoter Rob da Bank has confirmed, dispelling speculation that the 2016 festival could have been the last after ticket sales fell to 40,000 for the 55,000-capacity Isle of Wight event.

“Bestival was obviously a slightly different beast this year,” says a Facebook statement penned by ‘Robby and all at Bestival HQ’. “Festival land has changed a lot, [there is] more competition, a wobbly economy, etc., and for whatever reason many festivals have not sold as well. We did 40,000, which resulted in a more compact, boutique vibe and back to our roots, but by my own high standards sound and tent spec was not always what we would have wanted it to be – we can assure anyone coming back in 2017 that this will be rectified.

“As far as the festival market goes we can’t dictate what will happen but we can promise that Bestival will be back to its very high standards next year and we will continue to listen to you and use that feedback to improve every year.”

Bestival’s 2016 line-up, with headliners The Cure, Major Lazer and Hot Chip, was criticised by some as being underwhelming compared to previous years. (Bestival 2016 courtesy of the festival.)

Bestival 2016

Emerging music festival The Great Escape (TGE) will preview its 2017 line-up with a live launch in London in November.

First Fifty will take place across five east London venues – Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, The Old Blue Last, Kamio, Zigfrid von Underbelly and The Courtyard Theatre – from 22 to 24 November and will provide a “look at acts destined to take TGE 2017 and next year’s festival season by storm”.

Poté, LA Salami, Ray BLK, Cabbage and Shitkid are among those performing.

“Over the last 11 years The Great Escape has been providing the soundtrack to our future, with over 3,750 artists showcasing in Brighton,” says Rory Bett, CEO of promoter Mama Festivals, “and today’s announcement of the First Fifty previews the next wave of artists set to go down in TGE history. No other festival out there launches in this way, with 10 live gigs, and the best thing is that this is just the start: we’ve still got another 400+ bands to announce in the new year.”


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