Greater New Orleans (GNO), Inc.—the organization that’s concerned with economic development in New Orleans—has issued a request for proposal for a consultant to study and recommend how our metro area “becomes a hub for a thriving music business economy beyond the traditional live performance and club culture.” The RFP requires the study to “recognize and include music industry development as a key target industry sector and implement a strategy that builds a sustainable music industry ecosystem of full time quality jobs by concentrating on music business development and the intellectual property (music copyright) value stream.”
The RFP specifies that the study’s elements must include growth strategies for local musicians to monetize their work beyond the traditional live performance; a vision for GNO to identify strategies, by outlining what we are presently doing and to identify our short- and long-term core objectives for future industry development.
The RFP requires “asset mapping” to identify music businesses that already exist: venues, studios, rehearsal spaces, service providers, etc. across the New Orleans region (for those of you who don’t remember, OffBeat did this for almost two decades with the Louisiana Music Directory, pre-Katrina. Maybe they should have paid attention then).
It also required a “SWOT” analysis (a strategic planning technique used to help identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats related to business competition or project planning); an economic impact projection and a comparative analysis of other regions (I’m assuming Austin, Nashville at the very least).
I’ve waited for the city’s economic development arm to commission a study like this for over 30 years. Back in 1986, I tried to get the University of New Orleans to perform a study like this, but it was too much work and expense and there was no money to do so. Back then, we did a grassroots study and survey that determined that the economic impact of music on the New Orleans economy was over $92 million. And that was over 30 years ago.
My opinion is that we should not want to be Nashville or Austin. We can’t model New Orleans after them because we are not like those cities. We are unique, and have special assets and problems that these cities don’t have.
I think the job of the consultant, more than anything, will be to determine New Orleans’ “unique selling proposition” as a music city. In all the years I’ve been involved in this effort, no one has ever come up with a viable model for what New Orleans is and can be.
The possibilities for establishing the city as a recording and/or publishing center—while they sound attractive—are probably no longer feasible. Digital music recording and distribution took care of that. That ship has sailed.
What we do have, though, is a remarkable opportunity to make New Orleans a center for music and jazz studies, music business, and live performance education. The assets are there; they just need to be coalesced, marketed and developed.