Hip-Hop and R&B Rule the Road: 6 Impressive Festivals & Tours

For urban music touring, these could be considered the best of times, with a whirlwind of road activity from superstars and rising artists alike. Beyoncé just finished a $200 million-plus global tour, and this summer's run with husband Jay Z is on a pace to gross close to $100 million. Rihanna grossed nearly $130 million in 2013, according to Billboard Boxscore, and will launch the Monster stadium tour with Eminem in August. Mainstream destination music festivals also now routinely book urban acts - because they sell tickets.

"The genre itself is doing amazing on the live side," says veteran hip-hop agent Peter Schwartz of The Agency Group. "We are already booking deep into fall, and we will have at least eight to 10 hip-hop tours out, plus countless spot dates and events. Everyone will be working."

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the Essence Festival in New Orleans during Fourth of July weekend - expected to be the biggest yet - Billboard takes a look at the impressive number of upcoming A-list hip-hop- and R&B-focused festivals and tours in North America.

THE MONSTER TOUR

Starts Aug. 7-8, Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.

Eminem and Rihanna's co-headlining tour is brief but potentially lucrative, as both artists have proved to have major box-office muscle. Most recently, Rihanna's Diamonds run was No. 5 among all tours in 2013, grossing nearly $140 million and topping 1 million in attendance, according to Boxcore. With only six stops - doubles in Southern California, New York and Detroit - Monster could top 300,000 in attendance before it concludes Aug. 23 at Comerica Park in Em's hometown.

BET EXPERIENCE

June 27-29, Staples Center, Los Angeles

After drawing more than 100,000 attendees in its inaugural year, the BET Experience, a three-day festival anchored by the network's televised awards show, takes over Los Angeles again with concerts, seminars, comedy shows, art exhibits and a fan expo. Mary J. Blige, Outkast, Maxwell, Jill Scott, ASAP Rocky, Rick Ross and Jennifer Hudson are among the stars performing at the Staples Center and L.A. Live venues during the event, the result of an alliance between BET Networks and AEG Live.

OVO FEST / DRAKE VS. LIL WAYNE TOUR

Starts Aug. 3-4, Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto / Aug. 8, Darien Lakes Performing Arts Center, Darien, N.Y.

Young Money labelmates Drake (far left) and Lil Wayne (left) launch their co-headlining tour on Aug. 8 near Buffalo, N.Y. But look for a preview a few days earlier across Lake Ontario in Toronto, where Drake is headlining his fifth annual two-day OVO Fest in his hometown, a show guaranteed to be filled with special guests, including co-headliner Outkast. Wayne and Drake are among the leaders of a generation of hard-touring arena-level rappers, taking in more than $140 million and selling 2.4 million tickets combined from 242 shows they have played separately in the past five years, according to Boxscore.

ESSENCE FESTIVAL

July 3-6, Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans

For its 20th anniversary, the Essence Festival recruited Prince (above) to headline, doubled the number of stages and added a fourth day to showcase developing artists. Ticket sales for the weekend are on pace to exceed 2013's record year by 10 percent or more. The July 4 show featuring Prince is sold out, and Doug Thorton, executive vp for Superdome management company SMG, expects more than 130,000 people to attend the festival each day - more than Coachella. "Everyone around the country is telling us how excited they are about Prince," says Michelle Ebanks, president of Essence Communications, who also cites performers Janelle Monae, Mary J. Blige and Lionel Richie. "I don't know how anyone will have any energy left."

UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF MUSIC TOUR

Starts July 24, The Pavilion at Mongage Mountain, Scranton, Pa.

Now in its third run after selling 15,000 to 20,000 tickets per show in 2013, the Under the Influence of Music tour begins July 24 in Scranton, Pa. Its bill includes Wiz Khalifa (above left), Tyga, Ty Dolla Sign, Jeezy (above right) and Rich Homie Quan playing mostly Live Nation amphitheaters. "It's the only multi-artist-branded rap tour that has happened three summers in a row," says The Agency Group's Schwartz. "It's selling nicely, on par with previous years, and is starting to pick up more steam."

ON THE RUN TOUR

Starts June 25, Sun Life Stadium, Miami

The Jay Z/Beyoncé On the Run stadium tour is already out the gate, and wraps with a double at AT&T Park in San Francisco Aug. 5-6. By that time, despite erroneous reports that claimed it was selling poorly, the Live Nation-produced tour will have racked up a whopping nightly take of $5.2 million across 19 shows, and an average attendance of nearly 45,000 per show - well more than two separate sold-out arena stops would generate. Many shows were sold out at the time of the tour launch, and Live Nation cites "unprecedented" VIP and platinum ticket sales.


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