2023 Gamechangers Who Made Waves in Music and More

December 17, 2023 0

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Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC)
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The Black Music Action Coalition (BMAC) formed in the wake of 2020’s world-changing Black Lives Matter protests, resolving to remake the music industry with those revolutionary and inclusionary principles in mind. Three and a half years later, BMAC has fought valiantly for social justice, working with industry leaders to hold their companies accountable and implement a system of checks and balances to ensure change takes root.

In 2023, BMAC started several game-changing initiatives and continued others. They hosted their third annual Gala in Los Angeles in September, welcoming honorees like Jermaine Dupri, Keke Palmer, and more, and continued their commitment to inclusion and music education with its Maymester Music Business Accelerator at HCBU Tennessee State University.

BMAC partnered with industry institutions to spread awareness of salient political issues and draw attention to systemic bias. In July, BMAC hosted a rally at Rolling Loud Festival, bringing congressmen Jamaal Bowman (NY-16) and Hank Johnson (GA-04) to advocate for the RAP Act, a congressional act that protects free speech by prohibiting the use of rap lyrics as evidence in court. Later in the year, BMAC and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame partnered to create the BMAC Music Maker Guaranteed Income and Mentorship Program, providing a fund for essential creative and life expenses for qualifying musicians, as well as mentorship from some of the biggest names in music.

Since Black Music Action Coalition’s inception in 2020, the organization has been instrumental in addressing systemic racism within the music business and advocating on behalf of Black artists, songwriters, producers, managers, agents, executives, lawyers and other impassioned industry professionals. The Coalition will only continue to change the game in 2024 and the years ahead.

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Rolling Loud
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Hip-Hop’s largest music festival continued to grow in 2023, having its most exciting year yet as it enters its tenth year as a cultural force under the leadership of Tariq Cherif and Matt Zingler. As always, Rolling Loud led with its festivals. In March, the festival returned to Los Angeles for the first time since 2019, hosting Rolling Loud California with headliners Travis Scott, Future, and Playboi Carti. Rolling Loud California 2023 was the first-ever music festival to take place at Hollywood Park, on the grounds adjacent to SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. The summer brought Rolling Loud Miami 2023, the brand’s flagship event, bringing hundreds of acts to the festival’s hometown over three eventful days to see headliners Travis Scott, A$AP Rocky, and Playboi Carti, and an undercard filled with some of the most vital names in rap music today.

2023 was a year of global expansion for Rolling Loud, which hosted more festivals this year than ever before. Rolling Loud Thailand was the first-ever Rolling Loud in Asia, bringing both A-List American rappers and artists from Asia’s talented rap scene to the stage in Pattaya. Over the summer, Rolling Loud hosted three European festivals, returning to Portugal and The Netherlands and debuting in Munich for Rolling Loud Germany.

Beyond music, Rolling Loud continued to bolster its reputation as one of the most forward-thinking brands in culture today. The brand partnered with Forever21 to shine a spotlight on Bunny’s Bae Bar, the on-site festival glam station founded by Bunny Zingler, offering merch capsules for the L.A. and Miami shows and offering the items at local Forever21 stores. RL teamed up with Levi’s to offer customization stations at their U.S. festivals, and to host a “501 Day” series of concerts, with performers like Kehlani, Little Simz, Lil Tecca, and more performing in cities like Paris, Tokyo, London, and more. Impressively, Rolling Loud made its first foray into the world of sports by becoming the first brand to acquire the name rights for a team in the Overtime Elite professional basketball league. The Los Angeles-based Rolling Loud team has multiple top 100 prospects and jerseys designed by Rolling Loud themselves.

2024 marks “10 Years of Rolling Loud,” as the brand celebrates how far it’s come since starting as a one-day festival in Miami. With festivals in Los Angeles and Europe already announced for 2024, don’t be surprised if the next ten years are even more successful than the first.

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La Familia Presenta
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Founded by Aaron Ampudia and Chris Den Uijl, La Familia Presenta is the company behind Baja Beach Fest and Sueños, the two premiere showcases for Latin Music and Reggaeton in North America. Both festivals had banner years in 2023: Sueños brought massive headliners like Wisin Y Yandel, Feid, and Nicky Jam to Chicago’s Grant Park, while their signature Baja Beach Fest invited modern stars like Ozuna and Feid as well as genre legends like Don Omar and Tego Calderon. The two festivals are celebrations of Latin Music, and a showcase for artists who have contributed to its worldwide boom.

In recent years, Sueños and Baja Beach Fest have welcomed artists from the ascendant regional Mexican scene, recruiting singers of corridos tumbados like Natanael Cano and Junior H, as well as norteño practitioners like Banda MS to bring a more traditional sound. La Familia’s two festivals were the only 2023 festival dates for Grupo Firme, the wildly popular norteño group from Tijuana, who performed massive closing performances at each event, leading the tens of thousands of fans in an inspiring sing-along.

Next year, La Familia will keep growing their two festival brands–and keep booking artists like Rauw Alejandro and Tego Calderon in shows across Mexico–and provide the biggest North American stage for artists from Mexico and all over the Latin music world.

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Festival D’Été de Québec
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Each July, music fans gather in Québec City for Festival D’Été de Québec, an 11-day musical celebration that brings artists of all genres to the beautiful “Vielle Capital” (or, “Old Capital”). Held annually since 1968, FEQ draws hundreds of thousands of fans (1.2 million total admissions!) and dozens of international artists (over 180 per year!) to Quebec’s city center for more than a week’s worth of fantastic performances on five separate stages. The festival is a music lover’s paradise, with non-stop music and a buzzing city atmosphere. Though many have not heard of the Québec City festival, it’s a very familiar name to superstar artists: past headliners have included Paul McCartney, Mariah Carey, The Rolling Stones, The Weeknd, Lady Gaga, and many many others.

The 2023 Edition of FEQ started to turn heads from music lovers across the continent, thrilled by the expertly-curated lineup, professionalism of the organizing team (BLEUFEU), and the high-wattage headliners. 2023 brought a stunning array of artists, including Foo Fighters, Lana Del Rey, Zach Bryan, Pitbull, Green Day, and more, alongside a bevy of talented Canadian and Québecois artists. Remarkably, when weather threatened to derail a night of the festival, the organizers worked quickly to add a twelfth day to the festival (for the first time in 55 years!), bringing local heroes Les Cowboys Fringnants and Robert Charlebois back to the Plains of Abraham for a festival-closing celebration.

FEQ earned raves from across the spectrum, for its nimble handling of the weather, breadth of programming, passionate crowds, and smooth integration with the city of Québec. Pollstar led the charge, calling FEQ, “The Best Festival You’ve Probably Never Heard Of,” while outlets like NMEClashPasteThe Line of Best Fit, and many more heaped on the plaudits. With another group of all-world headliners in the works for next year, FEQ might not be a secret for much longer.

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Afro Nation Festival
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Celebrating African culture and music with festivals around the world, Afro Nation is the world’s biggest Afrobeats festival. Founded in 2019, the festival has held successful events in Ghana, Puerto Rico, and more, with its flagship event every summer in Portugal. Afro Nation has booked every major AfroBeats star, including Burna Boy, DaVido, Tems, and WizKid, as well as many stars from other global Black genres like Hip-Hop, dancehall, R&B, and more.

In 2023, Afro Nation made their debut in the United States, hosting festivals in Miami and Detroit. Hosted at loanDepot Park over Memorial Day Weekend, Afro Nation Miami welcomed Burna Boy and WizKid, selling out its opening day. In August, Afro Nation hit a historic Black music city with Afro Nation Detroit, bringing Davido and Burna Boy to the Motor City, along with American stars like Latto, Ari Lennox, and Dej Loaf. Both festivals featured the Piano People stage, a showcase for the ascendant South African genre of Amapiano, welcoming the genre’s stars like Major League Djz, Uncle Waffles, and more.

As Afrobeats continues to grow into a dominant genre worldwide, Afro Nation will provide a showcase for the genre and its extremely talented stars. Afro Nation plans to return to the U.S. next year–keep your eyes peeled for many more announcements.

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