R-E-S-P-E-C-T

I had the pleasure this week of speaking to a small class of teenaged musicians, led by local clarinetist Gregory Agid. Agid is the Artistic Director of the Second Line Arts Collective, a non-profit whose mission is to educate young people musically, but also to expose them to the music business at a young age. Students are placed in small music ensembles where they focus on developing their music skills in intensive sessions, but also attend a “master class” where they are exposed to local people from the music industry who can inform them on what they need to do to become proficient music business practitioners.

My job was to tell them how a music pub—OffBeat (print, digital, etc.)—works, and to give them some guidance on getting publicity in the music media.

Being someone who loves to talk (they don’t call me Mojo Mouth for nothing!), I thoroughly enjoyed the one hour I spent with the kids, who ranged from age 16 up to 23. Most were about 17-years-old.

They were focused on jazz, and included sax players, a pianist, drummers, guitarists, bass players and more. After the class, I was treated to a performance by the class.

I was blown away by their professionalism and dedication, as well as their musicianship. I wish I had their chops when I was 17!

The point of this is that anyone who desires to be a professional musician—or who wants to make a living being a creative individual (visual art, theater, writing, virtually any creative industry) needs to be schooled in the business side. Focusing on musicians: in essence, they also have to be businesspeople. A musician or a band is an entrepreneur. In New Orleans, people who aren’t familiar with being creative for a living don’t quite get this. And, moreover, the part of your brain that’s creative is not necessarily useful for taking care of what you need to do to take care of business.

Musicians and other creatives have to understand what they need to do to take care of themselves, and their business interests, too.

I know that there’s some basic music business instruction provided at places like NOCCA, Delgado and at the universities that have music programs. But I think it’s much more important that we give younger, budding professional musicians the ability early-on to know that they must educate themselves on how to be successful at making living making music (or making art). Ideally classes in marketing, finance, business communications and management related to the arts should be taught, ongoing.

It’s a pity that the creative industries are not regarded as serious ways to make a living. I think that most people who aren’t creative just don’t “get it,” and they think that deciding to be a professional musician or artist or writer is more of a lifestyle choice. Creatives aren’t taken seriously.

This attitude makes me frustrated and sad, but it’s also a symptom of a culture that doesn’t value creative output as a legitimate profession. We have to develop an attitude, particularly in New Orleans, where our citizenry respects creative people and allows them to make a decent wage, have a family, and good housing.

I like to see an advertising campaign that shows musicians and artists as parents, entrepreneurs, homeowners, tax payers, educators and citizens who can be respected and appreciated for their ability to contribute to the New Orleans economy, just as much as someone who is an accountant, an office worker, a doctor, lawyer, taxi driver, government worker, a cop, a salesman. Maybe that might help the creative class get the respect it deserves.

It’s a first step.

  • John Rankin

    Jan,

    I have been reading your editorials this year, and they are on the mark about New Orleans Music, musicians, and music business. Nashville is known for its music “business”, Austin is about “art” music, but we are the “fun” music town. We are have lots of low paying gigs here, but very little of the larger entities to promote and market our product. Offbeat is a tremendous exception, for which I’m sure many of we musicians appreciate. You have worked for years to focus on developing our music business culture (I was part of your DMBI initiative), and thank you for not giving up on us!

    John Rankin