Frtizels' on Bourbon Street. Photo:

Back to Bourbon

If you’re familiar with our fair city, you know we tend to get stuck in our ways. We’ve never been a city for stretching its neck out to try something new and different. So it’s quite interesting to see how our readers have reacted to questions we posed on the reconfiguration of two of the city’s most iconic music streets: Bourbon and Frenchmen.

In the last couple of weeks, we’ve polled our Weekly Beat readers—who consist not only of local readers but music lovers around the country who avidly follow the music scene in New Orleans via OffBeat print subscriptions, on and via the Weekly Beat.

In the past year or so, a fair number of musicians have voiced concerns over the payment methodologies at clubs on Frenchmen. While the street has become the city’s de facto “Music District,” it seems that the majority of music venues on the street don’t pay the musicians or bands who perform there on a guaranteed basis. They are paid with a percentage of the bar and/or with tips.

We asked our readers if they would be willing to pay a cover charge on Frenchmen if all doors were required to be closed (which, by the way, they are, according to the city’s Cultural District Overlay zoning; it’s just not enforced by the city). Here are the results and the comments:

Would be willing to pay a cover charge:

No        11.7%

Yes       82.3%

Other    5.8%

…and some of the comments:

  • I agree about the SuBourbonization of Frenchmen. I go to Frenchmen exclusively to hear music, and I want to reward the musicians who so lavishly enrich my lives. It’s so demeaning to expect them to have to pass a hat to get paid for their skill and their creativity.
  • I feel that providing the musicians of this city a more respectable wage not only benefits current and future generations of musicians, but the city as a whole. So much of our city relies on tourism generated from the culture, that if it is lost because musicians cannot afford living here, everyone loses.
  • I pay a cover about once a day when in town for an evening show, but it is nice to sit in the afternoon for a sandwich or a drink and hear some good music. And yes, I tip the players.
  • At French Quarter Fest Saturday rainout, I was actually put off by watching several customers ,who had the best seats at the bar, ignoring the passing of tip jar. Meanwhile, the generous customers who were standing in the back looking over shoulders to watch the set gladly contributed their dollars. I would rather have everyone contribute something, if not equally.
  • As a possible option, a one price wristband good for all clubs
  • There is so much good music I like to go to lots of clubs in one night. If I had to pay a cover charge at every club I would only go to one place, or none at all. I understand the problem but I don’t think this is the solution.
  • Early evening and late afternoon shows could remain in the pass the hat category, but later shows with headliners should definitely be closed door/cover charge events. The musicians and bar owners should get together, perhaps with NOLA municipal reps who could fashion beneficial by-laws, to hammer out some policies and practices which benefit everyone, including the music lovers. I’m from Toronto Canada, but I’ve got a serious crush on your city and would love to see you guys work this out.
  • One of the draws of Frenchmen street is the free nature of the music. The bars should make sure their musicians are well compensated because they no doubt contribute to more drinks being sold.
  • Depends on the band and I probably wouldn’t tip the band or at least not as much. I would also visit fewer clubs.

Last week, our poll asked: If there were a designated section on Bourbon Street (maybe a block or two) that consisted of side-by-side music venues like the music clubs on Frenchmen Street (no bars, no adult entertainment), would you go to Bourbon Street to listen to local music? Comments are below.

No   18.7%%

Yes  71.8%

Maybe 9.3%

  • Too many drunks cause me to avoid Bourbon Street. It’s hard to reform stupid. Most tourists who go there don’t know how to drink. Too much immaturity.
  • I would definitely go to Bourbon (or any other area) if there were good shows worth seeing and hearing…as long as I would not be required to traipse through the wasted teenagers and eau du upchuck in order to reach this musical destination.
  • An arrangement like this might be a net positive for the city if it increases the total number of live music venues. Plus, it would help crowd out some of the schlock on Bourbon and create an overall better impression of a part of our town that has become a sad caricature of itself.
  • Depends on who was playing.
  • Just depends on the talent.
  • Now I only go to Fritzel’s if I have to go on Bourbon with out of town visitors. If there were more spots with the locals I enjoy I’d have no problem seeing them there as well as on Frenchmen.
  • If they are good clubs, managed well, book quality local acts (and a touring act every once in a while), and can be far enough from the trashy element of Bourbon St, sure I’d go.
  • I would go if there were no strip clubs and blaring music pumped into the street.
  • Would have to be a good band to deal with Bourbon St.
  • The more live music venues, the better.
  • I love the local music industry. Even if it is on Bourbon Street.
  • Easier to catch more bands and less distractions.
  • Depends on the bands….
  • This is a pipe dream. You would still have to go thru the cesspool that Bourbon has become to get to it.
  • More venues would be great!
  • I will follow the music and musicians wherever they go.
  • I follow my ears.
  • I don’t go to Bourbon Street for anything, I sure wouldn’t pay to be there.
  • We visit frequently and Bourbon Street is not one of our big draws. In fact, we don’t like to go there at night. I LOVE New Orleans and go to the Quarter often, but not for music. It’s just not the place I think of. For tourists, maybe it’s a different story. But I think even they go to the “music refuges” in NOLA too.
  • I would go to Bourbon to hear original music. I am not a fan of cover bands. I would go anywhere for original music.
  • Would be a great enhancement to Bourbon Street and would change the raunchy perception of Bourbon Street. More tourists would venture in to these venues and our local musicians would get more exposure. Win/win!

It seems clear that the musicians might be in a better position to make a better living on Frenchmen, and that we could return more locals to Bourbon Street if there were more authentic local music there. Hint to businesses on Frenchmen and Bourbon…hint to city. Listen to the people who listen to music. You’ll be supporting the “goose that laid the golden egg” (musicians and music), preserve and enhance our culture and reputation worldwide, and possibly solve a lot of the issues that exist now on our entertainment streets vis a vis noise and the potential for crime. And you’ll attract a higher class of locals and tourists.