Essence Music Festival Still Going Strong After Nearly 2 Decades

The festival continues to thrive after 19 years -- besides Beyoncé, its nightly concerts at the New Orleans Superdome this weekend will include Maxwell, Jill Scott, Charlie Wilson, LL Cool J and New Edition -- but is it facing new competition?

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Beyoncé is the headliner at this year's Essence Music Festival. (Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)

Almost 19 years after Essence magazine launched its first festival in New Orleans to "party with a purpose" and celebrate black culture, music and people, the Associated Press reports that Essence Fest may be facing new competition.

Like Essence this weekend, last weekend’s BET Experience, held in Los Angeles, had Beyonce as a headliner. It also had panels discussing topics important to the community and spanned a three-day weekend -- a format Essence until recently had used for years.

But Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications Inc., said the similarities end there. 

“Yes, there’s some overlap,” Ebanks acknowledged. “But we’re relentlessly focused on our community and serving the black woman like no one else does or can because she’s worth it. That’s our goal and we believe we do that better than anyone else.”

So far there’s no sign that the BET Experience -- a celebrity-driven lead-in to the cable network’s BET Awards show -- is taking away from the Essence experience in New Orleans. 

The city’s hotels are showing healthy bookings, and music fans are ready to party. Many are arriving early to catch the Essence Festival’s outdoor celebration on the riverfront on Thursday.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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