Shawn Gee, a founding member of management consortium Maverick and lead manager for The Roots and Jill Scott, is partnering with Live Nation in a new venture, Live Nation Urban (LNU). Its goal: to better cater to the genres' underserved audiences by developing original urban-focused events, festival brands and strategic content partnerships for emerging, established and classic hip-hop, R&B and gospel artists.
According to Nielsen Music's 2016 year-end report, hip-hop and R&B alone claimed 28 percent of all on-demand streaming last year, outpacing rock (20 percent), pop (14 percent), dance and country (both at 6 percent). When it comes to live performance opportunities, however, R&B and hip-hop acts come up short. "If you're an alt-rock or EDM act, you can pretty much set up 20-30 festivals to play," says Gee, 45, who will serve as president of LNU. "But you can name the number of [urban-centric] festivals on one hand."
Addressing those issues early into his Maverick tenure, Gee has developed two radio concert series in partnership with client Scott: the Summer Block Party, now in its third year, and Holiday Jam. And he and The Roots will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the hip-hop group's annual Roots Picnic in Philadelphia on June 3.
"LNU's goal is to build more of these type of events," says Gee. "We envision LNU as an urban filter working with all of the other areas of Live Nation."
Gee will retain his role at Maverick and with The Roots and Jill Scott. He also handles touring for Nicki Minajand Lil Wayne in collaboration with fellow Maverick managers Gee Roberson and Cortez Bryant, as well as for G-Eazy in partnership with the Revels Group. Live Nation is also a partner in Maverick.
Among LNU's introductory initiatives are two new platforms: A Night of Symphonic Hip-Hop and The Circuit. The former, in partnership with Dallas-based TCG Entertainment, will be a national tour platform featuring hip-hop artists performing with local symphonies in non-traditional venues like performing arts centers and orchestra halls. The program will launch in July with Common in Columbus, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Penn. The Circuit, which is being developed as a monthly series, will provide emerging and established R&B and hip-hop acts with the opportunity to perform at branded events on the club and theater level in top urban-centric markets like Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
Rounding out LNU's three-person team are Heather Lowery, VP of talent & booking, and Brandon Pankey, VP of business development & operations. Gee and Pankey are based in Philadelphia; Lowery in Los Angeles.
"It's about building platforms, content ideas and strategic partnerships," says Gee. "I'd like to turn around in 2019 and see double or triple the opportunities that hip-hop, R&B and gospel artists have to perform live."
A version of this article originally appeared in the May 13 issue of Billboard.