When Dope Shows launched almost five years ago in 2017, co-founders and friends Stephen Piner and Jamir Shaw set out to create a new path in the entertainment industry not just for themselves, but for the youth of Philadelphia. Growing up in West Philly, the duo made the realization that in the world of entertainment, there there was a void that needed to be filled—one where there could be captivating performances and events that doubled as compelling messages for their community that has never been done in quite this way before.
“We really care about everything that’s going on in the city right now, we try to gear a lot of our shows towards that,” explains Shaw. After kicking off in 2017, Dope Shows has amassed over 20 shows and one festival with their reach traveling to other cities such as Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Boston. The organization also records a 90% sell-out rate with each show, and that hasn’t stopped, even after a pandemic.
The Philadelphia-based concert promotional company held its first live show after COVID earlier this summer. For that specific show, a portion of the ticket proceeds went to youth-based causes and initiatives in Philadelphia, and school district students participated in a meet-and-greet with performing artist Lil Durk.
The main drive for that show and also for their upcoming endeavors is to share positive messages and encouraging words from artists and guests to the youth of the city. Coming up, Dope Shows is gearing up for live broadcasting of the popular business platform, the ‘Earn Your Leisure Podcast: Meet The Founders’ at the Theater of Living Arts. According to a release, this “college business class mixed with pop culture,” NYC-based podcast (with hosts financial advisor Rashad Bilal and educator Troy Millings) will provide the audience with a deep dive into the minds of the Dope Shows self-made entrepreneurs.
“We’ve been running this business for almost five years. We’ve had ups and downs, and wins and losses building this brand to a certain level… so we wanted to talk about our story with these guys that represent the podcast,” explains Piner. “We wanted to talk to somebody that we could have a financial conversation with and a business conversation with and talk about our entrepreneurial journey. It wasn’t so much to just sell tickets, it was more so to get the word out there in a positive way, and what better way than with one of the top podcasts in the country?”
“Another thing we thought to do with the podcast was to shine a light,” adds Shaw. “Although these gentlemen have a podcast that’s big, in Philly we don’t feel like we hear enough about it or enough about them. We wanted to get used to coming to a podcast, learning about financial literacy and learning about different things from different programs in the city where we had youth coming out to all of our shows.”
The live podcast will take place on Thursday, Sept. 2, at TLA, but there’s another opportunity later in September as well to catch Dope Shows. On Saturday, Sept. 25, Dope Shows will present a live concert at The Met Philadelphia with headliner Polo G.
“Our brand has always focused on that youth, hip-hop demographic,” continues Shaw. “Polo G is a superstar that we saw emerging, so we thought he was a good show to follow up with.”
The organization isn’t stopping at just shows either.
According to a release, Dope Shows is hosting their annual Back 2 School Book Bag Extravaganza at The Fillmore on Aug. 29 at 1 pm. The company has partnered with local nonprofit Dimplez 4 Dayz Inc. to give away 1,000 book bags filled with school supplies to local students, and guests can also expect food, music, ticket giveaways and more.
“We weren’t able to do it last year because of COVID, but we’re giving out over 1,000 book bags at The Fillmore which is usually our home base for a lot of our concerts, so it will be a safe environment for kids,” says Piner. “We’re always open and always trying to do things where we are speaking to the youth. We come from where they come from—we’re Philly guys too. When you look at entertainment you might think, oh I want to be a rapper, but you don’t have to be a rapper to make money in entertainment, you can also make money behind the scenes. Just showing that positive light is one of the most important things.”
One of the integral parts of Dope Shows is its partnership with the City of Philadelphia. In one example, the city provided Dope Shows with a video for one of their past events titled “We’ve Had Enough,” a campaign that talked about violence in the city in correlation to how it impacts local youth.
“The partnership with the City of Philadelphia is key. In part, it’s for us getting tickets distributed, but also with the messaging. That’s something we plan on continuing through all of our events,” explains Shaw. “Through the partnership, we not only wanted to give kids the opportunity to be there, but also, we wanted to make sure to have proper messaging. Anybody who is there, we’re basically going beyond the concert, beyond that night or how they should be living or making sure that they’re not contributing to the violence that is tearing our city apart at the moment.”
Both founders agree that the journey Dope Shows has been through over the years—even during a global pandemic—through all of it, support has been shown.
“It’s definitely been somewhat of a rollercoaster ride,” finishes Piner. “Going through the pandemic, you have the opportunity to see who’s really with you and when you have no shows or tickets to give, that gave some clarity on that. Throughout the pandemic, even though it was rough, we had a chance to plan for when we came back—things we wanted to improve and things we wanted to do to further the brand and just put our further imprint on the Philadelphia entertainment industry as a whole. We feel blessed to still be able to do shows, because a lot of businesses weren’t able to come back.”
Philadelphians can check out Dope Shows website (dopeshowsonline.com) or social media (@dope_shows_ or @jamirshaw, @steph.piner) for upcoming shows and events.