Read this week’s issue of the Weekly Beat (sign up on our website if you’re not already a subscriber), and click through to get more information on the Music Cities Conference that’s going to be held in Lafayette, Louisiana on October 11 and 12, just ahead of the Festivals Acadiens et Creole on the adjacent weekend.
I’m planning on attending to learn more about what others are doing to develop their cities’ reputation as “music cities.” While we know that New Orleans is indeed one of the original music cities in the US, it never hurts to learn what steps others have taken to capitalize and enhance their music scenes.
Me, I’ve been promoting this very concept for New Orleans for over 30 years; I’m sad that New Orleans couldn’t host this event, but am pleased that Lafayette’s new mayor and head of Lafayette Travel are hosting this conference. Sometimes it takes fresh eyes to recognize the potential of something that’s right in front of your face.
Coincidentally, Greater New Orleans (GNO) Inc. has issued a request for proposal for a study to recommend how “Greater New Orleans becomes a hub for a thriving music business economy beyond the traditional live performance and club culture.” GNO, Inc.’s mission is economic development, and they want the study to “recognize and include music industry development as a key target industry sector and implement a strategy that builds a sustainable music industry ecosystem of full time quality jobs by concentrating on music business development and the intellectual property (music copyright) value stream.”
The RFP specifies that the study’s elements must include:
Growth Strategies: Provide a roadmap that advises the development of a system that provides opportunities for attracting and growing music-related businesses and for local musicians to monetize their work beyond the traditional live performance and club culture such as music publishing and sound recording. Strategies for developing the music industry should take into consideration other allied sectors that exist in the GNO region, i.e. digital entertainment, film production and videogame development.
Music Industry Vision: Provide a vision for GNO to frame the industry development strategy and outline what we are presently doing, identify our short- and long-term core objectives for future industry development and opportunities for jobs and wealth creation. Include in this vision steps needed to further engage the financial and legal sectors of our community.
Asset Mapping: Map the music assets (venues, studios, rehearsal spaces, service providers, etc.) across the New Orleans region. Identify strengths and deficiencies across the ecosystem.
Regulatory Assessment: Assess existing state and local music policies and provide a clear guide as to what the local authority can do through a SWOT and cost-benefit analysis, to better protect and grow its music ecosystem.
Economic Impact: Provide an economic assessment and potential of New Orleans’ music industry.
Comparative Analysis: Provide a comprehensive comparative analysis of other compatible cities/regions.
I’ve been waiting for the city’s economic development arm to commission a study like this for over 30 years. Back in 1986, I tried to get the University of New Orleans to perform a study like this, but it was too much work and expense and there was no money to pay for it (God knows the city wouldn’t!). Back then, we did a grass-roots study and survey that determined that the economic impact of music on the New Orleans economy was over $92-million. And that was over 30 years ago. Goodness knows what it is today.
GNO, Inc. is actually going to fund an official study, at long last. Maybe the results will finally convince the powers-that-be that music can play a much more significant role in the city’s economy.
But the music industry has changed dramatically over the past three decades.
Are there actually music businesses who will want to relocate to New Orleans, or open offices here to bring enough jobs to New Orleans such that GNO, Inc. can demonstrate that the music business can be developed here and that those businesses are a viable ecpnomic driver? In other words: Can New Orleans be another Nashville or Austin? I’ve heard this unanswered and much-pondered question posed for 30 years as well. My informed response is that we should not want to be Nashville or Austin. We can’t model New Orleans after those cities because we are not like those cities. We are unique, and have special assets and problems that these cities will not ever have. We have assets here that other cities only wish they had, one of the main ones being our dedication to keeping the music and tradition alive through generational education. That’s totally unique to New Orleans, and a huge asset.
I think the job of the consultant, more than anything, will be to determine New Orleans’ “unique selling proposition” as a music city. In all the years I’ve been involved in this effort, no one has ever, ever determined a viable model for what New Orleans, our music city, can and should be.
What do we want to be when we finally grow up?