Last summer saw the launch of Smokin' Grooves, a hip-hop version of Lollapalooza that proved there was a festival audience for urban music. This year, Quincy Jones and Magic Johnson are teaming up to introduce the Jamizon tour, a festival dedicated to R&B performers.

While details are vague at this point--an official announcement is due next week--sources say that the tour could be headlined by chart-topping Grammy winner Toni Braxton. She would be one of several acts performing on the main stage. Like Lollapalooza, a second stage would feature less mainstream artists, local performers and, possibly, comedians and poets, as well. Interspersed throughout the site would be an array of booths celebrating African-American culture.

The festival is expected to commence in June and continue through August, playing around 30 dates, according to the Los Angeles Times. The tour will hit mid-sized venues--arenas and amphitheaters in the 12,000 to 20,000 seat range. It would be sponsored by Jones' Vibe magazine and Miller Lite, and be produced by Warner/Avalon.

The project is apparently the brainchild of Johnson, who has worked diligently for urban renewal in recent years, most obviously by building a chain of movie houses. "This is part of Magic's ongoing effort to highlight urban entertainment," an unnamed source told the Times. "He was excited about being part of the first-ever event of this kind and to take it around the country for everyone to enjoy."

Indeed, recording-industry observers believe that urban music--including R&B and hip-hop--is one of the great untapped concert markets, perhaps because several performances in the last 10 years have been marred by violence.

But last year Smokin' Grooves broke through. Sponsored by House of Blues and headlined by the Fugees, Cypress Hill and A Tribe Called Quest, the tour grossed $6 million in 34 shows and placed in the Top 50 tours of 1996. And there were no major incidents of violence.

Heartened by the success of Smokin' Grooves last year and strong sales figures for hip-hop and R&B music--those two genres account for more than 20 percent of all music sales--experts believe now is the time for large-scale touring festivals. "It is certainly not an oversaturated market," said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert trade Pollstar. "R&B music sells a lot of CDs, so (Jamizon and other such tours) could sell a lot of tickets."

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