The day that the infamous Mojo Mouth is rendered speechless is an historic one. I’ll keep this short: I woke up this morning and read in the Times-Pic that a local guy who worked not far from our office had strangled, dismembered and cooked his girlfriend in the stove in their Rampart Street apartment (a girl also known to our staff), then had committed suicide by jumping off the roof of a French Quarter hotel. He documented everything in a suicide note. This, after two weeks of the most hideous violence; a week ago, three people were shot a block away from the office by a guy running down the street with two blazing handguns. The perp ran down the street and jumped in a car and sped away. What can you say?
With that diversion into Bizarroworld (people from outside New Orleans, consider that we live with this every day), let’s focus on the positive: the Voodoo Music Experience is back in New Orleans. Thank you, Steve Rehage and your crew for not only committing again to the city, but to expanding the audience of VMX to meld together all types of music, from the Chili Peppers to the Meters. Fresh, indeed, and we need fresh ideas and the ability to get things done in New Orleans, especially when it comes to music.
OffBeat is at VMX again this year; we hope you find the handy pocket schedule to be a good thing. Since its inception, we’ve always attempted to find out what our audience wants, to help the local music and cultural communities, to be user-friendly, and to make sure that the people who support our efforts—our advertisers and our subscribers—get their money’s worth. Come see us at our booth in the Voodoo Marketplace, or visit at the Preservation Hall Tent, where we’re co-sponsoring their effort to support local musicians via performances and through the New Orleans Musicians’ Hurricane Relief Fund.
Oh yeah… and you’re invited to the party we’re throwing at our first New Orleans-based OffBeat Magazine release party at One Eyed Jacks (615 Toulouse) on Saturday night October 28. Our cover boys—the always rockin’, often beer-soaked Morning 40 Federation—will make it a memorable night.
Since I’ve been in the music business, I’ve heard this question hundreds, maybe thousands of times: How can we develop the Louisiana music industry? This comes from the media, government, consultants, ostensibly-interested business people. What never seems to be determined is exactly how we define a “music industry” in Louisiana. Being a part of the business has made me a lot more cynical than I was when I first got involved in trying to “develop” the industry over 20 years ago. I know as a business person that the first step is to determine what you want to be, then analyze what you are, and then see how you can accomplish that goal, then determine exactly how you’re going to do it. Establish a goal, create the steps, and determine a timeline to achieve the goal.
But no one has figured out yet what the Louisiana music industry is, or what it wants, or needs to be. No one.
New Orleans is never, ever going to be a Nashville, or even an Austin. Our business methods are too antiquated and political (read Byzantine), and in some cases, just plain ignorant. Most music that’s recognized as “Louisiana” or “New Orleans” branded just isn’t mainstream enough. We have a cadre of music businesses and musicians who still haven’t educated themselves sufficiently on the vagaries of the music business, or in the changing technologies that are making the traditional means of music delivery obsolete.
But I’ve discovered that one of the biggest problems we have, especially in New Orleans, is that we’re satisfied to live a comfortable, relatively laid-back life, and bitch about how no one appreciates us. To be in the mainstream music business, you have to have a lot of ambition, a lot of chutzpah, and a lot of energy, and the ability to spread the word about yourself to the outside world.
Yeah, we gotta lotta talent, a lot of creativity. But ambition and the ability to work really, really hard? Hah! That’s rare in these parts. It’s interesting that the people who do have it will make their mark (see Superfly, Irvin Mayfield, Basin Street Records, Rehage, New Orleans Festival Productions, French Quarter Festivals, OffBeat? and more). How do you ramp up ambition along with talent, realistic business practices, and hard work? Oh yeah, and the ability to do some serious promotion and marketing.
But I digress, as usual.
One thing I truly believe we need to focus on here in New Orleans and throughout the state (pay attention, marketing people in high places) is the fact that the one thing we do really, really well is live music and celebrations: festivals.
We have so many festivals we can’t even count them all. Why don’t we focus on our ability to put on a good party/festival the linchpin of our music “industry.” Do you know how many people are imported into Louisiana for festival and music production? Why aren’t there enough people here? We need to train them to produce events. Marketing Louisiana as the epicenter of festivals in the US is a pretty good idea too. “Sportsman’s Paradise”? Puh-leeze! How about “Festival Capital of The World.” Or something.
That being my studied opinion, it’s great to see that the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation is branching out into other celebrations: on November 18, they’ll present the New Orleans Blues Festival at Lafayette Square in New Orleans. Admission is free, and acts will include Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Mem Shannon, Little Freddie King, Andy J. Forest and a lot more.
Voodoo Fest, Blues Fest, Festivals Acadiens, Red River Revel, Choctaw Fest, Tomato Fest, Oyster Fests. You name it, we got it. Why don’t we do a lot more with it?