I live in different world, populated by musicians, bands, managers, bar and club owners, publicity peeps, sound guys, promoters, artists, photographers, festival producers, whatever.
But it’s still a business world. The big difference is that New Orleans’ music industry is still for the most part vastly populated by micro-businesses (every musician and band is a business and an entrepreneur. Yes, entrepreneur.)
I think about this every time I sit in a board room or a meeting with people who head up or work for large corporations, universities, government, or even other traditional small businesses (a “small” business is defined as one that has 10 to less than 500 employees).
The main reason that music in this town has achieved little credibility within the business power structure—or any real power or clout–is that the traditional types of businesses perceive that making money by making music is a lifestyle or a part-time hobby.
That annoys me no end, owning a micro-business myself. We have businesses and we work many more hours than nine-to-fivers. I could almost guarantee it. Running your own business takes dedication, smarts, persistence, stamina, digital expertise, the ability to anticipate and adjust quickly to change, and a lot of just plain hard drudge work–because you have to do it all yourself.
Who represents the little guys, the music businesses (other than OffBeat, and we don’t really represent, we advocate)? Who represents the businesses, when taken as a whole, contribute mightily to the local economy?
There are literally thousands of micro- music businesses in New Orleans and throughout Louisiana. Most of them make well under $35,000 a year. Put them all together, however, and you might have a bigger force than you imagine. But how do you get them to work together to create the clout factor?
For 30 years, I’ve tried to figure out how to create an organization that represented the interests of the music and creative industries in the state, and I’ve never been able to come up with a working model. When you are dealing with creative people, there are a lot of factors that keep them from working together. And don’t forget that each musician, band, promoter, attorney, etc. is an entrepreneur, and those people tend to be very independent spirits. Getting them to work together without having them constantly focus on their own independent agendas (without considering the whole, and everyone’s interests), is nearly impossible.
It’s particularly hard in New Orleans, where the way people work is by not cooperating with anyone else so that each can make sure that they get their piece of the pie before someone else does. So in a lot of ways, there’s needless competition that’s more destructive to improving our industry than not.
I am looking for a leader somewhere out there who can first gather up, then put all the pieces of the puzzle in a basket, shake them up and get them to coalesce so that there’s a league or a guild of music creatives (including those people who are behind the scenes, like promoters, clubs, attorneys, etc.) who can bring across the idea that without our music scene, the traditional businesses-especially the hospitality businesse—would have a lot harder time selling the city, hotel rooms, liquor and meals without the invaluable contributions of the people who create and support the music.
It’s about time that leader steps up. Who will it be?