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Riffing On the Tradition: Blues In the Air

When I first came here in the mid '90s, a fellow California ex-pat, bassist Matt Perrine, gave me a two-page list of work contacts. One of them ended up helping me with a full season of Carnival work. It was, I felt, the tail end of an era.

There were a couple of balls with original tableaux music and elegant sets by Henri Schindler instead of the Blaine Kern stuff, even some parties and parades that actually used New Orleans music. But, within two years, most Mardi Gras gigs found me playing more tambourine or cowbell than saxophone or clarinet because, after all, who needs 14 horns playing the background riffs for "Soulman"?

At any rate, in the upcoming 2013 Super Bowl & Mardi Gras season, whether you’re among those who have been asked by one of the NFL sponsors to dress down and pretend to be street musicians, or if you're smart and promoting good non-Downtown shows for our locals wanting to avoid the French Quarter nightmare, suck as much money out of the 1 million visiting "big-ass beer" drinkers as you can.

The end. Next item of business:

It’s time to start moving swiftly toward making the most out of the festival season, when visitors will actually be coming for our music. To this end, the music community needs to know about some recent developments at Sweet Home New Orleans. For those of you who are not aware of an important shift in the organization's focus, you can read about it on its website. In a nutshell, they are seeing the rise of digital distribution outlets and the decline of the  “record label” paradigm as a potential boon for new, much-needed revenue streams. The evolving organization is much more about developing economic sustainability and infrastructure.

Because its staff knows that more thorough education for self-promotion and protection of our work is badly needed, Sweet Home’s new “Economic Empowerment Education Program” is currently accepting applications from New Orleans musicians for two highly competitive courses on the subjects of accessing the many available revenue streams that many of us are missing and training in the art of fan-based funding. The deadline to apply for these highly competitive, bi-weekly courses taught by leaders and innovators within the music industry is Thursday (Jan 17). Don’t miss out on this huge opportunity. Your songs won’t register themselves or get into films or TV automatically. And if you’re a fan, please share it with your favorite musicians who you think might benefit from this.

The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MACCNO) is continuing efforts to arm the cultural workforce with information about getting along with City Hall. They will do a teach-in on the tedious subject of zoning this Wednesday (Jan. 16) at noon. This is a very open group and for all culture-workers, including musicians, street artists, venue operators, Mardi Gras Indians and Social Aid & Pleasure Club members. And it’s the best way to keep an eye on news such as this “fine print” from the Superbowl Permit Guide:

Mayoralty Permit from the Bureau of Revenue is required for the following categories of vendors: Artists and others conducting business or promoting themselves or their art in the City of New Orleans including live entertainment (live music, DJ’s, music ensembles, etc); Street entertainers...”

Do we know for sure if this really means street performers will have to be permitted? No, but  participating in MACCNO and being a part of the dialogue that shapes our culture is the best way to stay informed on these issues.

I think this relates to the most important thing to remember: Cultural expressions are, and have always been, constructed by discourse within the community about its needs and aspirations. Furthermore, the expression in our work feeds the soul of our unique community, and this is why we need to have a stake in determining how it develops.

Thank you Sweet Home & MACCNO for helping.

Evan Christopher is a noted member of the New Orleans music community and a founding member of Nola Art House Music. Click here for his holiday performance schedule. He writes “Riffing on the Tradition” for NolaVie.

Evan Christopher is a noted member of the New Orleans music community and advocates for the cultural workforce. Click here for his performance schedule. He writes MAC-Notes for NolaVie. Email him with your comments about cultural issues, particularly in the music world, at [email protected]