More Than Just Festivals and Sports

This afternoon I was lucky enough to be able to leave the office and trek out to the Fair Grounds to take care of a little business. Oh what a gorgeous day! No clouds, cool temps, no humidity, sunshine and a breeze. It’s these days in New Orleans that not only make you glad you live here—you’re glad just to be alive. Wish you were here!

Thanks to CandyChang.com for writing what I feel!

Jazz Fest anticipation is building to a fever pitch. Our regular visitors, Jazz Fest/New Orleans freaks Vlada (from Orange County) and her partner Steve (from Queens) arrive on Monday to begin their annual two-week stay with us. While they’re here, they gorge on everything New Orleans. First stop for Steve will be the Louisiana Music Factory, where he’ll be able to stock up on all the CDs he’s been reading about in the magazine and on OffBeat.com. Then he’ll hit the clubs every night for as late as he can stand it, until Jazz Fest starts. Then he has to make a choice on how late to stay out, so he can be sure to catch everyone he wants to see at the Fest. Vlada, on the other hand, is jonesing for crawfish. Just reading the word makes her salivate. And then there are the Drago’s char-grilled oysters, and Jacques-Imos, and Sabai, and Walter “Wolfman” Washington (congratulations to him for winning the Big Easy Lifetime Achievement Award), Tab Benoit and Irma Thomas.

Tonight we’re dining with another subscriber, John Jacobs and his wife at Ye Olde College Inn. They’ve never been to Rock ‘N’ Bowl or to the restaurant. Can’t wait to introduce them to the fried bread pudding there, and to Rock ‘N’ Bowl later. Trust me, even for someone like me who was raised on homemade bread pudding, that stuff is worth a visit.

Yesterday, two more subscribers from Calgary visited us while they were in town. They come in to New Orleans in non-festival season because they like New Orleans sans festivals, which is sort of par for the course for a lot of our readers. They love it any time, any season of year. As long as they get to listen to music!

If it were up to me, I’d have been promoting Louisiana with music for a long time (anyone who reads this blog knows that mantra—I’ve been saying this for a bazillion years). New Orleans is a lot more than Bourbon Street, something that unfortunately many people don’t know because they’ve come here to “play” and playing to them means getting wicked drunk and hitting Bourbon. It’s all well and good, but we need to draw attention to more than just that aspect of the city. We’re more than Mardi Gras, more than a Saints or a Hornets game, or a Final Four. We’ve got so much more here for people to get connected to. You can see a sports event in almost any other big city in the US. But you can’t experience New Orleans or Louisiana music and culture every day.

Music is a strong attractant.  The success of the Jazz Fest and the growth of the French Quarter Fest are prime evidence of that theory. I’d love to see an analysis on the percentage of visitors to the state and the city the show the changes in international visitation related to music. Do those stats exist?

Long ago, when I worked for a research firm in Miami that specialized in the tourism industry, one of the best tools we had were the statistics gathered by the state of Florida that provided demographic information on family travel, origin of traveler, airport traffic (inside the terminals), and a lot more. I have heard from many sources that the two main reasons why visitors come here is for the food and music. There’s a lot of focus on food. What are we doing to use music as a year-round means of attracting people to visit. We’re more than Bourbon Street, or an annual festival.

  • John Blancher

    Of course, I couldn’t agree more on the fact that food and music is what really attracts visitors to New Orleans.For years now I’ve decrying the promotion of coming to our city for “free” music. The continual emphasis on “free” music cheapens it and perpetuates an environment that makes it extremely difficult for musicians to eke out a living. I’d suggest a Walmart business model of promoting our city for what it is – the best damn bargain anywhere! A”bargain”, not free. Nowhere can you fine dine at such reasonable rates as in New Orleans. Nowhere can you see great acts for such a minimal cover charge. Nowhere can you drink at local waterholes so cheaply as in New Orleans. We have the greatest “everyday low prices” of anywhere in the country. We need to sell that! Stop selling free music.

  • John Blancher

    Of course, I couldn’t agree more on the fact that food and music is what really attracts visitors to New Orleans.For years now I’ve decrying the promotion of coming to our city for “free” music. The continual emphasis on “free” music cheapens it and perpetuates an environment that makes it extremely difficult for musicians to eke out a living. I’d suggest a Walmart business model of promoting our city for what it is – the best damn bargain anywhere! A”bargain”, not free. Nowhere can you fine dine at such reasonable rates as in New Orleans. Nowhere can you see great acts for such a minimal cover charge. Nowhere can you drink at local waterholes so cheaply as in New Orleans. We have the greatest “everyday low prices” of anywhere in the country. We need to sell that! Stop selling free music.

  • Mzell

    John makes a good point.  Having been away for a bit post-Katrina, it was interesting to find that when New Orleans musicians are on tour and play other cities, cover tends to be $10-25.  We have world class musicians among us, and they’re expected to mostly work for tips and a cut of the bar when they play here.

    Jan, I don’t know if you saw the TP story this week about Crowefrom Slidell and his film tax credit porn bill.  Buried in that story was the more interesting one.  Of the paltry 25 million the state uses to promote tourism, somewhere between 1/4-1/2  of that is redirected from its expected use by the legislature to attract and market the Final Four, Sugar Bowl, Essence Fest, etc.  Big events of these types put people in hotels and on Bourbon Street, but do little economic impact for the rest of us.  Imagine if just some of those millions were used to market properly.
    http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/04/bill_denying_tax_credits_to_po.html

  • Mzell

    John makes a good point.  Having been away for a bit post-Katrina, it was interesting to find that when New Orleans musicians are on tour and play other cities, cover tends to be $10-25.  We have world class musicians among us, and they’re expected to mostly work for tips and a cut of the bar when they play here.

    Jan, I don’t know if you saw the TP story this week about Crowefrom Slidell and his film tax credit porn bill.  Buried in that story was the more interesting one.  Of the paltry 25 million the state uses to promote tourism, somewhere between 1/4-1/2  of that is redirected from its expected use by the legislature to attract and market the Final Four, Sugar Bowl, Essence Fest, etc.  Big events of these types put people in hotels and on Bourbon Street, but do little economic impact for the rest of us.  Imagine if just some of those millions were used to market properly.
    http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/04/bill_denying_tax_credits_to_po.html

  • Twj

    “Frankly, I usually defer to the musicians and the people who create the
    culture. OffBeat is just a promotional conduit, along with WWOZ.” 

    I  would simply add, Jan, that the “conduit” has others in it as well, e.g., the local (and national) journalsts, authors and webmasters who also promote and support New Orleans music and the musicians.

    Incidentally, the starting time for the May 1 tribute at Generations Hall has yet to be announced, at least as far as I know.  Do you know it?

    Tom Jacobsen

  • DK in PA

    I live outside Philly.  Last month I paid $44.00 to see the Joe Krowne, R. Batiste and Walter Wolfman at a local Jazz Fest. and paid $38.00 (this included all those “fees” that the musicians probably don’t see) to see the Soul Rebels. Also saw Terrence Simien and the Zydeco Experience for about $25.00 Worth every penny!…but there’s nothing like hearing it in NOLA!!!