From: Vintage Ad Browser

Do New Orleans Bars Respect Musicians?

In years past, OffBeat has always been known as the reliable source of information on music in local clubs and venues, and a way to learn about music and musicians in the city, and where they were playing. Local venues advertised the bands who played there.

That was in the “olden days,” 10 years ago and more.

There are a ton of people who go out to listen to music now who are too young to remember what the music scene was like in New Orleans pre-OffBeat, and a lot of newcomers to the city who’ve never experienced a scene like we have in New Orleans and who have never experienced having a way to learn about local music from a reliable source (even if they don’t read print as much as older generations, they certainly check websites and social media!).

OffBeat has always supported the music and musicians of New Orleans, including the venues and events where the bands play.

When the venues advertised and promoted the bands who gigged there, they affirmed that the bands were an important factor in getting people into their venues. Of course, those were the days of print advertising, and as we well know, print is perceived as being a dying form of media.

I disagree, but you’d expect that from a person who publishes print media. Of course, we’d love to have more print advertising because that’s what keeps OffBeat alive. But digital ads and social media changed that.

If a venue owner is located in an entertainment district (Bourbon or Frenchmen), they now really don’t see the need to advertise because, frankly, their audience is going to walk in anyway. It really makes no difference who is playing at a bar or club, because when patrons don’t have to pay a cover, they aren’t perceiving the club as a music destination. It’s just another stopover on a walk down the street.

This is a pity, because who really suffers from this lack of attention to the music are the bands. Their music is no longer special. Their band is no longer special. The bands are just another cog in the street party scene.

Many clubs don’t care because it means that they no longer have to spend money to promote the music. And this is what disturbs me more than anything. The clubs should be advertising and promoting the bands who play there and should figure out a way to pay the bands equitably. Obviously, as I said before, it would be great to have every club in New Orleans advertise the bands (print, digital, social media) because it allows OffBeat to continue to achieve its mission.

Before Bourbon Street became what it is today, it was a destination for music. You knew who was playing there because the clubs advertised it in the newspapers (I can remember seeing these as a kid). But then Bourbon turned into a music free-for-all and the way to get patrons in was to have the bands play as loudly as possible to draw in drinking customers, as everyone kept their doors wide open to pump music out onto the street.

This caused a multitude of problems, including the ongoing noise issues on Bourbon, as well as a depersonalization of the musicians and bands. Bands were paid less. Music quality declined.

Ironically, musicians on Bourbon Street are now on average paid more than musicians on Frenchmen Street, and in a lot of cases are better musicians.

Much of this is a function of the change in markets over time. Older crowds tend to get out early and leave early (but they have more money to spend). Young markets stay out later but have less money to spend. This is obviously the case on Frenchmen, where the crowds are getting younger and younger. We’re doing a disservice to these younger people because they are no longer going out to hear specific bands. They are going out for “the scene.”

I personally believe that it’s the duty of local clubs to take care of (i.e., pay) and to seriously promote and advertise the musicians and bands that draw in patrons who drink and therefore support their businesses.

This will do a few things: 1) possibly provide working musicians with a living wage; 2) reinforce the perception that New Orleans is a music town and has unique music offerings that you can’t find anywhere else, thus promoting our entertainment venues; and 3) show some serious respect to the bands and musicians who actually make their businesses profitable.

  • Dennis

    A great article, well worth debating. It’s not the sole responsibility of the club to be the musicians benefactor, there needs some “marketing” done by the artist in tandem with the club or bar they are playing at.
    I understand them being “the artist” but the grunt work that needs to be done, is what they rarely do.
    An example, I hired my favorite Nola musicians for parties, which by the way their performances were outstanding, but I had to chase them down, they never chased me for the business.