Jazz Fest is one of the most popular times of year in New Orleans, attracting millions in tax revenue. But Jazz Fest in New Orleans doesn’t just happen within the New Orleans Fair Grounds gates. For nearly two weeks, we live, eat and breathe just about every form of music imaginable. It is safe to say that most of the people that attend Jazz Fest do so because they believe that participating in New Orleans music culture enriches their quality of life. However, there are those that argue that second lines, street musicians and outdoor festivals inhibit their quality of life.
Among the many growing pains New Orleans has experienced since Katrina is the settlement of folks from other places into neighborhoods previously maintained mostly by musicians and other culture bearers. Suddenly, these neighborhoods have a lot of complaining residents. New Orleans was named one of the top 10 cities for entrepreneurs and “hip” living spaces again this past year, and yet musicians and other artists are finding the need to form groups like the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans.
Should second lines require permits and fees? Should playing a fiddle on a street corner require a designation in an “Arts and Culture Overlay” zone? These are questions sparking debate at New Orleans City Hall. So are these: Would New Orleans receive as many visitors and young new residents if all of our music had to be intensely regulated? Can you even regulate culture?
The only solution, identified by at least by City officials, so far is a set of technology regulations at venues that protect neighbors from “noise” and still allow for vibrant musical experience inside. Yet, these sound system improvements and other renovations come at quite an expense, falling almost entirely on the small business owners and musicians, drastically increasing their cost of living.
New Orleans has a grand contradiction on its hands with many saying that city leaders need to stop praising New Orleans culture to tourists and the national media, while simultaneously shutting down the places and opportunities that allows it to flourish.
The question remains; can you regulate culture? Let us know your thoughts.