BroccoliCon Organizer Talks Emphasis on African American Execs, Giving Back to the Community
Scheduled for the two days prior to the growing festival held at FedExField, BroccoliCon is celebrating its third year of bringing more than 750 leaders to address the greatest challenges facing…
Washington, D.C. music festival Broccoli City returns this April with headliners Childish Gambino and Lil Wayne, as well as the third year of two-day conference BroccoliCon. Scheduled for April 25-26, the days leading up to the growing festival held at FedExField, this year BroccoliCon will bring more than 750 attendees from across the music industry to address the greatest challenges facing urban communities today.
“The tagline for this year is ‘You can’t be what you don’t see,’” Broccoli City co-founder Brandon McEachern tells Billboard. “For African American males sometimes, we feel like we can’t be nothing but a rapper if you think about the music industry because that is all we see.”
McEachern says the impetus to create BroccoliCon came from festivalgoers asking him and co-founder Marcus Allen how they were able to bring together the successful festival that has now been running since 2010 with major acts including Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Future and more. “How can we continue to foster these wonderful entrepreneurs, these creatives, these photographers, all these people who have these creative assets within themselves, but don’t necessarily have the tools to get to the next level?” he says. “We wanted to do it two days before the festival. You can come and learn, you can network but then on Saturday it’s turn-up time.”
This year’s BroccoliCon will be held at the historic National Union Building and The Loft at 600F Street with more than 50 workshops, panels, chats, demonstrations and networking events. Standing out on the lineup are the four biggest names belonging to women of color who at the top of their fields: Endeavor’s chief marketing officer Bozoma Saint John, Live Nation’s CHRO Nadia Rawlinson, Motown Records president Ethiopia Habtemariam and Reign Venture’s managing partner Monique Idlett, all of whom will speak at the conference.
“We are super-duper honored that they would even take the time out to come and kick it with us for a couple of days,” says McEachern. “It was us doing our research, seeing people who were making strides in this industry and taking risks and being awesome within themselves.”
“These were the type of people that we wanted to bring to the conference because I see so many young women inside of Nadia Rawlinson. I see so many women in Bozoma Saint John. My little niece is a little Bozoma,” adds McEachern.
McEachern says Broccoli City’s partnership with Live Nation Urban helped secure some of the conference’s bigger names and has helped boost the festival from more from 10,000 attendees to 35,000 in 2018.
“Live Nation Urban has been doing magnificent things in the African American space when it comes to hip-hop, R&B and gospel,” says McEachern. Live Nation president Shawn Gee and vp talent & booking Heather Lowery “were really instrumental in securing a lot of this talent because they already had the relationships. When they got the mission and what Broccoli City was about they were like ‘Oh shit. Of course.’”
With the involvement of Live Nation Urban, BroccoliCon was also able to bring in Quality Control’s Kevin “Coach K” Lee who works with last year’s headliners Migos and Cardi B, as well as this year’s performers Ella Mai and Lil Baby.
I’m “a kid from North Carolina with huge dreams and aspirations to inspire people that look like him and talk like him and walk like him,” says McEachern. “These guys are really changing the face of music especially from an executive standpoint.”
Centering African American voices on the industry side of the event was not enough for the organizers who want to reach as many people in their community as possible. In 2016, they kicked off the Power of One campaign where individuals could volunteer for one community activity within the city of Washington, D.C. and earn a ticket to the festival.
They morphed the campaign into a mobile app available on iOS and Android called Chip’N where people can find volunteer and earn “chips” for the marketplace that gives them the ability to get free tickets to events like Broccoli City, Roots Picnic and Afro Punk. In March, the app gave away 75 pairs of tickets to Travis Scott’s Astroworld tour stop in Washington, D.C.
“Being able to give that access to the community which is super-duper important to us,” says McEachern. “I am not going to get you to spend money to come out and just have fun and then you go home the same way that you came, except your feet hurt.”
Broccoli City Weekend returns from April 25-27 in Washington, D.C., with the conference running April 25-26 and the festival kicking off the night of April 26 before a full day of programming on April 27. For more information, head to BCFestival.com.