My friend John Snyder, attorney, producer, professor and visionary recently retired as the director of Loyola’s Music Industry Studies Program. A lot of students and colleagues (myself included) hated to see him leave, as he elevated the Music Industry Studies program to a new level. (OffBeat honored Snyder earlier this year with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Music Education at our Best of the Beat Awards).
I’ve written quite a bit in the past disputing the notion that New Orleans can potentially be another Nashville. The naïve business development person will look to Nashville (and Austin) as business models for developing New Orleans’ music industry. New Orleans is a “music city,” right?
Well, it is, but not like those two cities. There are no other music cities like New Orleans.
Snyder recently shared a very apt and erudite description of how and why New Orleans cannot be compared with Nashville in a memo he shared with the consultancy group that is researching and ultimately presenting recommendations to GNO, Inc. on developing our music industry, and I’d like to share it with you:
“Avoid comparisons between New Orleans and Nashville. New Orleans is more about non-conformity and Nashville is more about conformity; New Orleans is more diverse, Nashville more homogeneous; New Orleans is more home-grown, Nashville is more about the movement of East and West Coast employers and employees to Nashville; New Orleans is more of a culture of survival and consumption and Nashville is more about growth and IP [intellectual property] creation and monetization; New Orleans is more about music of the streets and Nashville is more about music on the radio to sell products.
“Jazz is about improvisation and new structures; Nashville is about formula and repetition; New Orleans music is about rhythm and movement; Nashville is about emotion and remembrance. Musically, jazz is about harmonic and rhythmic complexity; country music is about simplicity and familiarity. The people who made the music of New Orleans and Nashville shared struggle and poverty but that’s all they have in common, in the most general sense. These are overstatements but they point to distinctions that suggest differing ways in which to grow and develop, not so much from emulation as differentiation.”
He’s said it better and more succinctly to differentiate the kinds of music towns New Orleans and Nashville are. We are distinctly different in our approach to music. Nashville is formulaic to appeal to the largest common denominator of music consumer, what is now marketed as “country music.” New Orleans is just the opposite. We have a very strong sense of self here; we know we’re different, and like it that way.
So what can New Orleans do to keep its musical soul and monetize its music? The obvious ways are to take the music that’s already been written and to promote it to a market of business consumers: films, gaming, commercials and such. There’s already a strong movement by the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) that’s presented and is developing more ways for local music makers to get their music—their intellectual property—into the lucrative film and commercial markets.