It seems to happen every year.
Businesses on Royal Street complain about the noise from street musicians and performers. This is the time of year when retailers on Royal can make a lot of money. WWL-TV reported that several businesses in the 600 block of Royal Street had issues with the noise coming from street performers.
According to the story, the owners of Currents Jewelry, M.S. Rau Antiques and others are set to meet with NOPD Eighth District officials to try to come up with a solution to the issue.
In the WWL story, the business owners say that they are not opposed to street musicians, but that it’s gotten out of hand, as the performers’ crowds block entrance to their stores, as well as to sidewalks in the performance area. The noise is so loud, they say, that they can’t conduct business in their stores. One retailer said there are usually four or five shows a day, every day, that could run about an hour each.
The problem is that, once again, we have a clash between commerce and art. Need it be said that the reason these performers are entertaining on Royal Street is because there are more people on the street shopping, and street performers work on tips from the crowd? Retailers could potentially say that since there are more people drawn to the street performers, more people could be drawn into their retail establishments.
Apparently though, this isn’t the case. Bucket drummers are definitely loud, as are performances requiring breakdancing, mics and audience participation. One of the merchants said that they have seen a loss of business because the street performers block entrances to their stores and that they “pay no attention to the merchants.”
Well, I guess not. The street performers want that tourist money as badly as the retailers, and it’s actually quite a bit harder to solicit tips during a free show. So a sort of competition has been set up between the two. Let’s be real: if the street performers and merchants could work together to come to a compromise where both benefitted, it might be a different story. Part of New Orleans’ unique charm is the ability to hear music and performance on the street. This in turn draws people to Royal—whether they are going to shop or simply enjoy the “free” show.
It seems to me that if the retailers wanted to reap the benefits of the crowds that are drawn to the performances, they might quit being combative with the bands and performers. Why don’t they, as a group, even consider nominally compensating the performers and use that compensation as leverage to make sure the groups keep the sidewalks and retail entrances open, and that they are not too loud to drown out retail business or to annoy customers? Why bring the NOPD every time something like this happens? There are definitely not enough cops to police this sort of thing, and I could almost guarantee that if you at least talk to people a compromise might be reached before the police have to be brought in.
It also might be helpful if the performers did not perform in the same place every single day. But that should also be part of the conversation with the retailers. Move it around a bit.
An exchange of money works wonders, people. Why don’t you at least try some compromise?
What do you think would be an equitable solution to this problem, readers? Take our poll and make your opinion known. For taking our weekly poll, two polltakers will win a pair of tickets to see the New Orleans Suspects Holiday Jam on December 30 at Tip’s.