It’s awfully interesting to observe the changes that have occurred in the music scene since OffBeat opened its doors in 1988.
I’m a little concerned that the market for live music at the clubs and other venues not located in easily accessible tourist areas could be having a bit of a rough time.
When OffBeat started, the music clubs that were patronized by tourists were typically in the French Quarter. Places like Tipitina’s had not yet penetrated the consciousness of people visiting New Orleans, until the early 1990s when the then-operators of Tip’s, Jim and Mientje Green, decided to promote it to visitors by doing a concerted effort to let concierges and hotel personnel know about the club. It also helped a lot that Tip’s was featured in the film The Big Easy, exposure that helped put it on the map for tourists (crappy move, but good for Tip’s and the local music scene).
For a while, there was a very substantial boom for music clubs throughout the city. But I think that has leveled off. Frenchmen Street was a destination for local music-lovers, but it’s since gone the way of Bourbon Street and caters more to tourists and a crowd of younger partiers who are less into enjoying the music than they are into drinking and the “scene.”
St. Claude Avenue has become a place where locals can go to hear music, but it tends to cater to an audience that’s imported and lives in the Bywater and St. Roch. The music freaks that used to love Tip’s, the Maple Leaf and Snug Harbor are a bit discombobulated these days. I regularly talk to musicians and people who are into music (this is OffBeat, after all) and they’re mostly disenchanted with Frenchmen Street. It’s someplace where they “used to go,” but it’s become too crowded with partiers, not a crowd that’s really into music. I’ve even heard it called “Bourbon Street Lite” and “Subbourbon.” And musicians, for the most part, don’t have a great guarantee on wages.
Not to say there isn’t great music or great musicians on Frenchmen. There are. It’s just that the scene is off-putting to people who want to listen to music, and not have to endure drunks, bachelorette parties, beer buses, rolling light-polluting billboards, and hustlers on the street.
It seems that the vast market for music is now about visitors to Bourbon and Frenchmen Streets.
How long will it take before another street becomes New Orleans’ vaunted “music street”? Will it be St. Claude Avenue? Or is it too far off the beaten path?
Is there less interest in music from locals than there used to be? What do you think?