Shawn Gee flexes both shrewd business sense and abundant creativity as President of Live Nation Urban and as a partner in Live Nation’s Maverick Management, where he’s built a sterling 20-year career that started by guiding the careers of The Roots and Jill Scott, both natives of his hometown of Philadelphia. Two decades later, Gee still manages all aspects of their careers.

Gee has cultivated particular expertise in the business of live touring and music festivals, and at the helm of Live Nation Urban, he is breaking new ground for hip-hop, R&B and gospel artists while also producing big-ticket events like The Roots Picnic, Broccoli City Festival, R&B Summer Block Party, BET Experience, Lights On Festival, Miami Jazz in the Gardens and Kirk Franklin’s Exodus Festival.

Gee aims to inspire the community at large and particularly to move Black entrepreneurs to “break the glass ceiling” of the biz. His most powerful argument lies in his own story.

A Division Two basketball player with a young child, Gee worked two jobs while pursuing his studies, earning an accounting degree and subsequently getting his MBA at George Washington University.

While holding down a Wall Street job at Citibank, “I received a call from a gentleman named Richard Nichols,” Gee recalls. “At that time, he was the manager of a band from Philadelphia, The Roots. Tariq ‘Black Thought’ Trotter, the lead vocalist, is my cousin. We grew up as brothers. We even lived together for several years. As he was in the band, growing and bubbling in the music scene, I was doing the same thing academically and professionally. I was always around them. I was the cousin who would come to the show and hang backstage. But then they’d leave on their tour bus, while I went home to get up early for work. There was a good relationship with Richard and the whole band.

A few months later, Gee left Citibank and started working with The Roots full time, handling their business and logistics.

“There are tent poles in my career, and really important people who helped me,” he says. “The ultimate tent pole was that call I got from Richard Nichols, and the trust I got from Tariq and The Roots. Then there was Jill Scott, who was my second client out of Philadelphia. I was new in the industry, but they gave me the chance to learn. They gave me the chance to make mistakes.

“The second tent pole was in 2004, when Donda West and Gee Roberson brought me into the Kanye West business early and entrusted me with the responsibility of helping strategize and build out the vision that Kanye had for his live business. From the first college tour [School Spirit] up through Glow in the Dark and Watch the Throne. Ms. West and Gee Roberson allowed me to learn the touring business at the highest levels with global arena tours.

“From there, it was [business manager/boxing agent] Al Haymon, the smartest person I ever met. He’s a Harvard graduate who showed me that a Black man can reach the pinnacle of success in the live touring business. He is aspirational and inspiring. Al pushed me and taught me the touring business from the “buy” side of the business. He also ingrained in me the importance of representing Black culture both with the artists we choose to promote on the stage as well as the business and production teams that we hire behind the stage.

“And then there’s Michael Rapino, the CEO and President of Live Nation Entertainment. In this phase of my career, Michael has invested in my vision. He did what not many others would ever do: He put up the capital to fund the crazy ideas that I have. As an equity partner, that gives me the autonomy to build the business as I choose to. He also listened, which is important, as I gave him my perspective on the systemic racial issues that exist in live music. He not only listened, but he empowered me to try and find some solutions.”

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