By this time of year, business is usually picking up from the summer doldrums. But not this year. Two hurricanes kicked our butt. People aren’t visiting and they’re not buying. Many locals left town for the hurricanes. We pretty much lost two full weeks of business this year, and nothing happened to us. We’re back! It’s safe here! It didn’t flood.
Sweet Home New Orleans released a report on the musician community they serve and it’s telling that most musicians in New Orleans make only about $20,000 a year, less money per gig than before Katrina. There are fewer gigs than before Katrina, but most of the clubs are open. What’s the deal? It’s really simple: there just aren’t enough people in the audience at shows. It’s always been difficult for musicians and clubs in New Orleans. I could always tell when there was a convention in town because everyone was fat and happy. We need visitors to New Orleans. Our economy—and our music culture—depend on visitors. The New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, the two entities that market the city to visitors and conventions—do use local music and musicians in their promotions. But what hasn’t been done is an all-out effort to bring people to New Orleans as leisure travelers (not conventioneers or meeting attendees). Yes, we get visitors during Mardi Gras, and French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest, but we need those kinds of visitors all year long. Voodoo Fest is starting to make its mark for attracting visitors, too.
Notice that most of the events I mentioned focus on music. I don’t include Mardi Gras in that number because it isn’t a music celebration, and I’d venture to guess that local businesses—other than bars in the Quarter, and the folks who make money specifically from Mardi Gras madness—don’t see a lot of increases in business. So my solution would be to change our strategy to market the city as a music destination, like Nashville or Austin, in order to get high-end, money-spending, culture-loving tourists all year long.
This concept has been in our Weekly Beat newsletter (if you don’t subscribe, you should at OffBeat.com); Austin got to be the city that boasts that it’s the “Live Music Capital of the World” by making a marketing slogan stick There is no reason why we can’t similarly “create” New Orleans as a music city. It’s just going to take a bit of reorganization, strategy and mindset adjustment. In last week’s Weekly Beat, I asked readers to send me their suggestions for slogans that would describe New Orleans as a music city. So far, I’ve received almost 100, and I’m sure there will be more. I’m volunteering to take this to our city council, the mayor, and visitor marketing entities. We have to do this! I look at this as my duty to my city and my culture. I also see it as a way to not only help my business, but the rest of the businesses in the city. If you have a slogan that’s the equivalent to “Live Music Capital of the World,” something that will describe us and our musical culture, please email to me at email@example.com. I’ll keep you posted.