Black Entertainment: Who Really Owns It?
In today’s entertainment world, let’s face it; black music, fashion, and culture dominate the entertainment industry. With shows like Love and Hip Hop, radio programs like The Breakfast Club, and artists like Cardi B or Migos; black culture isn’t just a lifestyle, it’s a force. In 2016, ABC News published an article discussing the value of hip-hop titled, Hip Hop: Billion Dollar Biz. The author estimated that hip-hop brings in approximately $10 billion in revenue each year, and fans of this genre carry approximately $1 trillion in spending power. This all sounds epic, right? As fans of the culture, we’ve enjoyed young black millionaires and even a few billionaires enjoy the fruits of their labor. But, as we take a deep dive into who really OWNS the culture, the content, and the talent that is black entertainment – the majority of owners within these companies don’t look like us. This is why the deal that was recently completed by Essence Ventures LLC is such a huge accomplishment. It puts one of the largest publishing platforms for black entertainment, back into the hands of the people who are a part of the culture that creates this content!
As a recent example, we watched the drama play out a few weeks ago between Joe Budden and Complex Magazine. Joe Budden, the creator and one of the commentators for the Everyday Struggle podcast, contract was not renewed with Complex after he demanded an increase in salary for endorsing a product. Complex did not want to give Joe any additional money even though they would be making more money for the endorsement. Instead of negotiating with their creator, Complex simply pushed Joe out the door by not renegotiating a new contract for the year.
Once again, a company took an original idea created by a young, black, creator. Used that idea to build their online brand and subscription base; then when they weren’t interested in meeting the demands of the creator, they pushed them to the side. Luckily for Budden, he has some new things brewing with Revolt TV and Diddy for 2018; unfortunately, not all creators are this lucky.
Former Shea Moisture Owner Invested in the Purchase of Essence
This is why the power move recently made by Essence Ventures is amazing for multiple reasons. Essence Magazine, has been acquired by Essence Ventures LLC. This purchase means that Essence Magazine and the Essence Festival are now under the ownership of a 100 percent black own corporation. The Essence brand was previously owned by Time Magazine and Time was selling off many of their acquisitions to The Meredith Corporation. The Meredith Corp did not purchase the Essence, so Time Magazine had to look for other buyers – and they found one. Richelieu Dennis, most famously known as the previous owner of Shea Moisture, sold this hair company to Unilever in a mulit-million deal, back in November. Dennis then turned around, and invested in the purchasing of Essence Magazine and returned the company to it all black board of directors. In a statement, Dennis expressed his game-changing decision:
“We are excited to be able to return this culturally relevant and historically significant platform to ownership by the people and the consumers whom it serves, and offer new opportunities for the women leading the business to also be partners in the business.”
Shout out to the black men investing in black women-owned businesses 💁🏾♀️
— Necole 💛💛 (@hellonecole) January 5, 2018
This move not only returns this black brand back to a black-owned company; the board of directors consists of an all black executive team of WOMEN, and that team will all share equally, an equity stake in the company. With this fresh start, Essence is now focused on expansion, which starts with the growth of the Essence Festival in Durban, South Africa.
Not only is it important to see these type of ventures today and in the future, it is great to see a black man supporting a business led by women. It is also comforting to know that this all black entertainment brand will be one of the homes for black entertainment. Very often, people outside of the culture just ‘don’t get it’; they don’t get the things that make us laugh, they don’t understand they popular song that we make go viral on twitter; and often these good ole boy corporations just don’t understand the black culture, our wants and our needs. Placing this power in the hands of a corporation that can properly nurture our creativity while adding to our bottom line is what creatives need!
This is the hope for the future of black entertainment. A culture of people that cool, fun, entertaining, and trailblazing content, will reap the benefits of full ownership. The black culture, along with its creativity has been used and abused for too long. The key to stopping this abuse can only be found in ownership.
By The Way
By the way – Syllabus Magazine is also 100 percent black owned!