In all the years I’ve done business in New Orleans, and especially since I’ve been involved in music, I’ve noticed one thing: it’s extremely difficult to get people to work together, to set common goals where everyone in the community will benefit.
Everyone is territorial about “their” idea, “their” business. This means that instead of working for a common good—which may take some compromises on both, or several sides—these folks cling to “their” ideas and want to exclude everyone else’s. Sometimes—in fact, often—it’s not about money or capitalism—it’s about proprietary feels about an idea that they feel they own…to the exclusion of anyone else.
This is counterproductive to making anything positive happen, because you have people who are fighting for their “right” to be recognized for an idea, while at the same time they are dissing—or even trying to attack and even destroy—anyone who’s ideas are similar to their own.
I really could understand if it was business competition, but it’s not. It’s just an intense feeling of ownership of an idea, with the concept that no one else make it happen.
I’ve been guilty of this myself, but have stepped back and realized that I’m not going to be here forever, and that it’s up to me to make sure that goals I’ve set for a positive impact on the community need to be shared, encouraged and promoted by people who have the energy, smarts and and competence to actually accomplish the goal.
I’ve seen this over and over and over again in the music community, and it’s time that we look at our situation, band together, and make up our minds that unless we work together, what we want for New Orleans and Louisiana—thriving, creative, culturally impactful and successful music and culture communities—is being held back by 1) the inability to set and create a plan for common community goals; 2) a lack of meaningful cooperation; and 3) lack of communication between the moving parts of the community (OffBeat could certainly play a role here. We published the Louisiana Music Directory for years—to delineate our resources—as well as an industry newsletter. Lack of monetary support, but not enthusiasm for the actual newsletter itself, made it impossible to continue back in early 1990s.
I think it’s crucial that we have a meaningful conversation to determine exactly what our common goals should be. Everyone is sort of doing their own thing. There’s no central hub that all the spokes of the wheel lead to.
I met this morning with Bill Sabo, the Director of the Food, Music and Software Tech division of the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA). NOLABA is evaluating an idea for a business incubator for musicians. He compared it with 2112 Chicago, Chicago’s first incubator focused on the development of business and entrepreneurs in music, film/video and creative technology.
The idea is a sound one; it’s been presented before, but nothing has been accomplished so far. Perhaps the best place for an incubator like this would be in one of the many neglected buildings in the city, specifically abandoned schools, or other vacant, centralized locations. It could contain office spaces for creative businesses: non-profits (the New Orleans Film Society, NOVAC, Creative Louisiana, WWOZ, etc.); rehearsal spaces for local bands and musicians, as well as bands on the road; recording studios for musicians who can’t afford other options; editing rooms; affordable offices and facilities for publishers, producers, tour managers, booking agents, and the other various businesses involved in music and technology; classroom space and ongoing educational programming opportunities; mentoring and much more.
We already have a great Music Business Program at Loyola University. It would be so good for our creative community if their program could also be involved in making this happen, along with the City of New Orleans Mayor and City Council, and of course, some major private sector investors. Without money and investment by an entity that sees the potential in this venture, this will never happen. It’s going to take some ambitious fundraising, but it could be done.
What do you think? Can and should everyone involved in music and the creative economy work together to support such an endeavor without defensively protecting their “turf”?
I hope so.