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As the 20th Anniversary of ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL approached, Time, Inc. and ESSENCE Communications wanted to try something different with the 18th edition of the beloved gathering, one of the nation’s most attended annual events.

For 18 years, ESSENCE MUSIC FESTIVAL not only brought together the biggest names in music for a weekend of concerts in New Orleans’ legendary Super Dome, it also provided the nation’s largest African American Empowerment Experience. 

After creating every aspect of the 8 performance areas, VIP areas, and accompanying media assets (down to the incredibly complicated credential system) that would host the likes of Beyonce, LL COOL J, and Janelle Monae, Creative Director Jonathan Tessero and his team of lighting, scenic, production, and media designers turned their attention to the ESSENCE Empowerment Experience, working with festival producers to re-conceive how they leverage the magazine’s “Fierce, Fun, and Fabulous” tagline and trademark table of contents across every aspect of bringing the ESSENCE brand it life across its seven-ballroom, nearly 700,000 sq ft footprint.

With six figure sponsorship investments, ESSENCE’s commitment to carrying the energy of its A-list performer roster across the entire festival paid off for festival producers and sponsors alike: the festival experienced its first ever waiting list sell out, setting a record attendance of 540,000 people – a 125,000 attendee increase over the previous year!


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