It’s amazing what a decade and a commitment to community has done for Broccoli City. As I begin to approach co-founder Jermon Williams, he is all smiles and taking in all the scenery around him. For reasons I’m not sure, but after years of progress, it’s moments like this that must feel even more rewarding. The skies are clearing up for the rest of the day and high energy is buzzing around the festival grounds. Seeing its biggest crowd to date, Broccoli City debuts a second stage during its ten-year anniversary to accommodate the 50,000+ tickets sold. Yet, it’s still just the beginning for what is arguably the biggest black-owned music festival in the country. But that isn’t where their story begins.
View this post on Instagram
In fact, Broccoli City’s origins go back to Los Angeles when it began as a t-shirt company fifteen years ago to promote cultural and community advancement. The brand’s future would become clear after the founders realized that supporters gravitated more to the local events they organized. Their first event was a success, boosting local opening acts such as Kendrick Lamar on their lineup. The team continued to host events before choosing to lock in on doing festivals. “The vision has always been blending together the community… and the culture”, Williams explains. “And we understand music is that connector.” After gaining traction, the decision was made to move Broccoli City from LA to “Chocolate City” in Washington, D.C.
“I think our footprint was just growing a lot. LA showed love but DC just started kind of growing quicker in terms of our access, what we were able to do, how we were able to move partnerships we were making in the mayor’s office… And it’s a melting pot.”
The decision to transition began to show early success, as previous festival attendance numbers doubled from 5,000 to 13,000 in 2016, then reaching 30,000 two years later. Their lineups began to grow as well, boosting names like Future, Cardi B, Lil Wayne, and more.
They have spent years evolving into what it’s become and now, their vision is set on expansion, following their new equity deal with entertainment conglomerate Live Nation. It’s a game-changing partnership that Jermon says has helped tremendously in terms of their growth the past few years.
“They really started to support [us] around 2017, 2018. We’ve continued to prove that we are a cultural force. And they have bought into it and have helped us tremendously secure some amazing talent, as well as help us organize our infrastructure for growth… none of [the co-founders] come from a festival background.”
Little experience hasn’t stopped anything, as the team has been able to become one of the most sought after music festivals for fans and artists alike, but also playing an active role in the DMV area, providing social events and even scholarship opportunities throughout the year. This is something that Williams is extremely proud of, as community involvement has been a part of Broccoli City since its inception. While the festival looks to continue to grow in numbers (“130k, 200k, a million… those are the numbers we want to do”), their expansion can include coming to a city near you in the future, Jermon says.
It could also mean more focus on delivering more curated events and lineups catering to their core audience: Gen Z black women. According to the co-founder, the decision to have a predominantly women-driven lineup this year with names like Ice Spice, City Girls, Chloe, and Jasmine Sullivan was a conscious one. “It’s simple, 60% of our core audience is women. So we’re going to make sure we’re catering to [them]. That’s a way for us to say thank you for supporting us.”
Still above any future plans of growth, Jermon says that the team is focusing on getting better in all aspects. Which explains why he can’t help but to constantly keep looking around him, examining the crowds, the stage, and various tents. The team is already developing next year’s festival and their biggest thing is paying attention to eliminating any mistakes they notice for a better experience. “First, you can’t get bigger until you get better and can’t sustain bigger until you get better… Once we’ve done that, man, the sky’s the limit.”