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ESSENCE Festival

Bringing a magazine from the page to the stage

ESSENCE Festival

Bringing a magazine from the page to the stage

In 2012 --

two years before the ESSENCE Music Festival’s 20th anniversary -- organizers were looking to revitalize the popular event. They made a pair of bold moves.

First, a new name. “ESSENCE Music Festival” was rebranded “ESSENCE Festival.” It was a decision made to position the massive event as one that offers a range of quality programming in addition to the top tier artists who perform nightly at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Second, the Time Inc. property decided it was time to seek a new Production Services partner. They needed a firm that offered the talent and experience to bring efficiency, technology and innovation to the forefront of ESSENCE Festival. A company with the creativity to produce a fresh experience for attendees. And most importantly, they wanted to work with a team that understood how to bring the ESSENCE brand more to life at its signature event.

After a broad, national search, ESSENCE Communications chose Solomon Group.


As one of the largest annual events in North America, ESSENCE Festival requires over six months of planning. Besides the daytime programming offered at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, and the nighttime entertainment that takes place at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, our client wanted to create a third destination for its attendees. In 2013, ESSENCE Festival added a Family Reunion Day at Woldenberg Park. Solomon Group produced an entirely new event that included live music, cooking demonstrations, children’s activities and plenty of New Orleans food. And though roughly 15,000 were expected to attend, over 55,000 came through the gates.

Solomon Group provided several solutions to enhance both our client’s brand and the audience experience at the festival. Our fabrication facility created and installed a 13-foot tall ESSENCE logo that was positioned on an elevated truss structure and served as a striking backdrop to Center Stage inside the Convention Center. We also created a digital “tunnel” to help audience members move between the Empowerment Experience and the main show floor. It not only improved audience flow between the two attractions, but with animated projections that included photos and inspirational quotes from famous African-Americans, the tunnel served as another opportunity to put the ESSENCE back into ESSENCE Festival.

In addition to providing all of the live production for the event, Solomon Group was responsible for executing nearly every aspect of ESSENCE Festival. Sponsorship activation, venue management, logistics, security, credentials, transportation and artist relations were all handled by an organized and coordinated Solomon Group team of specialists. In the end, over half a million attendees watched 55 artists on eight stages at three venues across the popular, four-day event.

To see more about how Solomon Group brought the “Page to the Stage” at the 2013 ESSENCE Festival, watch this:

2014 - 2018

With the record-breaking attendance and re-branding successes of 2013, ESSENCE Communications, Inc. offered Solomon Group a multi-year contract to serve as Producer of ESSENCE Festival.

For the event’s 20th Anniversary in 2014, ESSENCE and Solomon Group worked together to bring the event to a whole new level. The most significant change involved adding an extra night of concerts to the Mainstage schedule at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Once again, attendance shattered the previous record, as more than 540,000 people participated in the 20th annual ESSENCE Festival. 2014 earned the distinction of being the largest gathering in the event's history.

In 2015, Solomon Group provided production services and custom, large-format graphics at a new, third venue for ESSENCE Festival. The Day Party Series--ticketed events offering food, cash bars and DJ entertainment--was held across all four days of the festival at The Sugar Mill, directly across from the Convention Center.

Solomon Group’s custom event technology products and services -- which include bi-directional optical turnstiles and RFID stanchions -- allowed our client to track audience flow in and out of the venues and helped the 2016 & 2017 ESSENCE Festivals operate smoothly, safely and securely.


For the event's 25th Anniversary, you know festival organizers had to do it big. Solomon Group successfully managed to not only pull off the usual jam-packed itinerary of live artists, panels, and sponsor activations at the Convention Center, but flawlessly executed the highly secured, onsite visits from several Democratic Presidential Candidates on the Power Stage and a Keynote from 'Forever First Lady,' Michelle Obama. 

What We did

  • Creative Development, Design + Direction
  • Live Event Production
  • Project Management + Consultation
  • Technical Direction
  • Lighting Design + Systems
  • Creative LED Displays
  • Multimedia A/V Production
  • Scenic Design + Custom Fabrication
  • Projection
  • Sound Design
  • Show Logistics + Management