The following letter is in response to Jan Ramsey’s blog post, “Does Less Beer Mean Happier Musicians?” sharing the results of an OffBeat poll revealing that our readers would overwhelmingly not mind paying a cover to see bands on Frenchmen Street if doors on Frenchmen Street clubs were required to be closed.
Wow, this seems wrong in so many ways. We always tell tourists to go to Frenchmen because they can hear music from outside a club or go in or listen for a song and stay if they like it or move on to the next place if they don’t. So if we close all the doors and start charging a cover charge, people have to decide to hear a band they don’t know by the name and a picture on a handbill in the window. That means instead of sampling several clubs in one night they’ll go to one or maybe two. How many cover charges are you going to pay in one night? The nature of Frenchmen Street is a musical buffet where you can sample several performers over the course of a night.
I often go to hear a specific band or artist on Frenchmen and when I do, I tip well and tip for each set I stay for. I imagine performers I go to see for an entire performance would suffer a net loss from me by going to a “cover charge” rather than “tip jar.” There are also times that I like to go from club to club, sampling the buffet, to hear new things and maybe stay for a set at each (tipping accordingly). Many people stay for a set at a club and move on to something else after a set, or if they don’t really like the performer just a couple songs. Although I tip at each place I would go, I would likely be loath to spend a cover charge if I’m only staying for a short while—less than a set. How many times have I walked into a club and heard one song followed by “We’re going to take a short pause…” That usually means it’s time to head somewhere else. If I had paid a cover I would either be obliged to stay until the next set or leave and be very upset that I just wasted a cover charge. You might think I’m reaching here, but that really is the nature of visiting Frenchmen Street.
So, being that the Frenchmen experience is to have a musical buffet that you can sample from and move on, how would a cover work? Do I have to pay a cover for each performer? And how much? A relatively high cover might dissuade me from coming in to a club especially for a performer I’m not familiar with.
Finally, when there is a cover charge, what will ensure that the performers will actually be paid the entire cover charges paid by customers on any given night? Performers will have to have someone watch the door to be sure they are paid whet they are due. Or maybe club owners will charge a cover but have performers sign a contract for a flat rate, and keep the difference.
—Gerard Guidoni, New Orleans, Louisiana
The following letter is in response to Jan Ramsey’s blog post, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” pointing out that anyone who desires to be a professional musician needs to be schooled in the business side.
I have been reading your editorials this year, and they are on the mark about New Orleans’ music, musicians, and music business. Nashville is known for its music “business”, Austin is about “art” music, but we are the “fun” music town. We are have lots of low-paying gigs here, but very little of the larger entities to promote and market our product. OffBeat is a tremendous exception, for which, I’m sure many musicians, are appreciative. You have worked for years to focus on developing our music business culture (I was part of your DMBI initiative), and thank you for not giving up on us!
—John Rankin, New Orleans, Louisiana
OffBeat welcomes letters from its readers—both comments and criticisms. To be considered for publication, all letters must be signed and contain the current address and phone number of the writer. Letters to the editor are subject to editing for length or content deemed objectionable to OffBeat readers. Please send letters to Editor, OffBeat Publications, 421 Frenchmen St., Suite 200, New Orleans, LA 70116.