The Essence Music Festival, known as “the party with a purpose”, is an annual music festival which started in 1995 as a one-time event to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of ESSENCE, a magazine aimed primarily towards African-American women. It is the largest event celebrating African-American culture and music in the United States. Locally referred to as the Essence Fest, it has been held in New Orleans, Louisiana every year since 1995 except for 2006, where it was held in Houston, Texas due to Hurricane Katrina. It features artists simultaneously performing on a main stage as well as four standing-room only superlounge stages.
In 2008, for the first time since its 1995 inception, the festival was not produced by the original producer team. Instead, Essence Communications, owner of the festival and the Essence magazine, contracted Rehage Entertainment Inc.. A new main stage facelift was designed by production designer Stefan Beese.