The Essence Music Festival is dropping the music — from its name, that is.
The festival held in New Orleans every July 4th weekend for the past 18 years has rebranded itself The Essence Festival. Organizers say the change is designed to showcase the event as more than a music festival.
Still, music will remain a focus for the 19th annual festival, which is July 4-7.
The lineup includes more than 30 acts — a number of them Essence veterans. On the roster are Jill Scott, Maxwell, New Edition, Charlie Wilson, Keyshia Cole, LL Cool J and Brandy.
For the last 18 years, the Essence Music Festival has been the go-to event for African-Americans, especially African-American women. For three days in New Orleans, hundreds of thousands show up for R&B and gospel concerts and panels on politics, financial planning and parenting.
If it's a party, as creator George Wein describes it, it's a party with a purpose.
"New Orleans is a party city and they party," Wein says. "People party here. If you go to the hotels — 40-floor hotels — [there's] like 40 floors of parties."