Voices Of Live: Black Promoters Collective Powers New Edition’s Live75 Run

DO IT FOR THE CULTURE: New Edition’s “Culture Tour” was the ‘80s R&B group’s first tour since 2016, but its success – aided by the two-year-old Black Promoters Collective – placed it in the Top 10 of Pollstar’s Live75 chart for six weeks, including a peak at No. 6 the week of April 11. Photo By Terence Rushin

When R&B legends New Edition entered Pollstar’s Live75 chart at No. 7 on March 14, it marked a milestone for several reasons. As the six-member group approaches its 40th anniversary next year, it’s a testament to its history, relevance and staying power. But it’s also a testament to the Black Promoters Collective (BPC) that organized and promoted the tour, just two years after forming.

When Pollstar last spoke to the Black Promoters Collective, it was in the formative stages as the pandemic shut down touring and attention was turned to the lack of diversity on and behind the stages and the concert industry at large. Several Black concert industry professionals who saw the need to unite in the face of both challenges brought together promoters, venue operators, festival directors and other Black business owners to build a stronger foundation for Black touring pros.

Less than two years later, the efficacy of the Black Promoters Collective is on full display, not only with the success of the New Edition tour but with fellow R&B star and BPC touring artist Maxwell also moving into the upper reaches of the Live75 chart – at No. 6 and No. 8, respectively, the week of April 11.

Though “The Culture Tour” with New Edition is over, Maxwell continues the Live75 streak for BCP – this week at No. 12 with an average of 7,621 tickets sold per show and gross of $771,946.

New Edition – comprised of Ricky Bell, Michael Bivins, Bobby Brown, Ronnie DeVoe, Johnny Gill and Ralph Tresvant – have been an R&B mainstay since debuting in 1993 with Candy Girl, and continue going strong today, having recently wrapped “The Culture Tour” and its Live75 chart run with an average attendance of 10,472 and gross of $1,169,120.
Not too shabby for a group that hadn’t toured or released an album in six years – including the touring shutdown caused by the COVID pandemic.

But what New Edition had in its collective pocket was the guidance and expertise of the Black Promoters Collective as well as its seasoned manager, Brooke Payne of 617 Management, to make the most of relationships, marketing and booking power. They’re using that leverage to book full national tours, not unlike Live Nation or AEG Presents.

BPC Chief Executive Officer Gary Guidry and BPC President Shelby Joyner explain that the purpose of the organization isn’t to compete with Live Nation or AEG Presents, or any other national promoter, but rather to bring equity and fairness to artists and other Black concert professionals who historically have been shut out.

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HAIL TO THE TEAM: Members of New Edition celebrate another successful show with their Black Promoters Collective partners. L-R: New Edition’s Johnny Gill, Mike Bivins, Ronnie Devoe, manager Brooke Payne, Ricky Bell, Ralph Tresvant. Back L-R: Black Promoters Collective’s Sulaiman Mausi, Shelby Joyner, Gary Guidry; New Edition’s Bobby Brown; BPC’s A. Troy Brown. Photo By Terence Rushin

“I don’t necessarily see us as being in competition with Live Nation or AEG,” Guidry tells Pollstar. “It’s not an initiative to compete, as it is more looking forward to partnering with artists that we enjoy and that we culturally identify with, as well as who we feel can make an impact on our bottom line and our business growth strategy. It’s not coming from a place of competition; it’s coming from a place of fairness, equality and a level playing field.”

Guidry explains that when BPC goes after major tours, they want to partner with artists who can identify “with our journey as well as we could identify culturally within our community.”

Other artists working with BPC include Jodeci and Charlie Wilson, who joined New Edition on “The Culture Tour” as well as Anthony Hamilton and Joe, who have been appearing in support of Maxwell. In the fall, the BCP will be the national promoters for Mary J. Blige.

“For New Edition and Maxwell and these artists to take a chance on this initiative that we have here, was a success coming out of the box for a startup company,” Guidry says, before explaining that BPC is a startup company with a major difference.

“We don’t feel like we’re a startup company because we have decades and decades of experience and millions of dollars of concert business we’ve all done over the years,” he says.

“It is more of a collaboration of prominent promoters coming together to form this company. But it still is considered a startup because it’s a baby,” Guidry says, chuckling.

Black Promoters Collective leadership reflects those decades of experience: Along with CEO Guidry (also CEO of G-Squared Events) and president Joyner (CEO/President, SJ Presents) are CFO Bill Ingram (president, Platinum Productions, LLC); CSO/SVP Shahida Mausi (founder, The Right Productions, Inc.); CMO Troy Brown (chief architect/president, one50one); SVP Lionel Bea (co-founder, Bay Area Productions); SVP Sulaiman Mausi (president/CEO, The Right Productions, Inc.); and VP Janice Cotton (director of business affairs, Bay Area productions).

New Edition and Maxwell were ideal artists for BPC to take out of the gate on a national scale as pandemic restrictions began to ease at venues. Many of the members have worked with them over the course of their careers. Even the name “The Culture Tour” was reflective of the reason the collaboration matters.

“I think it was time for us to come together and that’s why we called it ‘The Culture Tour,’” Joyner says. “Gary [Guidry] spearheads the New Edition relationships and I, as president, had the Charlie Wilson and Jodeci party of the relationship.

“We took the best artists, we knew the markets, we had Jodeci and Charlie Wilson on board, and we were able to convince New Edition that we were the right partners and best marketers for this tour. We had more of a grasp of the culture as far as getting the audience to actually purchase tickets,” Joyner says.

Payne, New Edition’s longtime manager, has often worked individually with promoters on shows in different markets, but was attracted to the consistency of a national tour promoter able to handle every detail, from production to health safety.

“This entire tour was supported by Black Promoters Collective,” he emphasized. “I enjoyed working with individual [concert promoters] prior to this tour and going through the work that had to be done. I’ve known the different promoters over the years; different individuals and deals they put together company to company.

“You’re afraid that you will handle regions and relationships differently, including those with production companies. It made it easier when you’re presenting what [BPC] has put together, using their collective intelligence and experience.”

And a successful tour it was, from its Feb. 16 launch at Columbus Civic Center in Columbus, Ga., followed on Feb. 20 with a sellout at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, with Charlie Wilson and Jodeci in support, selling 13,556 tickets and grossing $1,583,419.

But possibly most gratifying was a sellout stop in the home market to Joyner and some of his New Edition members, New York City’s Madison Square Garden. The package of New Edition, Jodeci and Charlie Wilson sold 12,390 tickets and grossed $1,392,570.

“One of the highlights for this tour was the magic at Madison Square Garden,” Guidry acknowledges. “It was an honor to see my partner, Shelby, get a sellout at Madison Square Garden, being in the home market, and for them to give him the honor of getting a sellout at Madison Square Garden. It was a monumental occasion.

“With New Edition, that was a dream of theirs. They had never sold out Madison Square Garden, and that was a building that they always wanted to play. They wanted to play that building and they wanted to sell it out. And so to be able to partner with them, to sell it out and see their happiness that night and seeing that ‘Sold Out’ sign on the wall, on the Jumbotron, was really a feel-good experience for us all to have and to partner with at that moment together,” Guidry says.

But all of the business expertise in the world can’t sell a single ticket without the talent of the artist, and Joyner is quick to sing his artists’ praises, for good reason.

“We have to thank New Edition, Charlie Wilson and Jodeci for giving us the opportunity to be producers of their tour,” Joyner says. “Those guys are so professional. Everyone was so professional. They came to work every day. They put their hearts on that stage. The production was amazing. The staffing was warm and professional and we had a great time on the road.

“We’re really looking forward to doing future business with New Edition and I especially have to give a special shout out to Bobby Brown. He did everything. And to see the love between the brothers of New Edition – it seemed like they were kids again just enjoying themselves. We could not do it without those three groups because without the talent, what are we really promoting, right? We want to really sincerely say ‘thank you’ to all three groups that gave our company the opportunity to put the Black Promoters Collective on the map.”