Riffing On the Tradition: It's summertime, so let's move forward before the heat stops us in our tracks
With the festival season hangover subsiding, finally, some of you are starting to engage in serious discussions about our future. After my appeal last week to keep the momentum going, some great dialogues started, so let's do it. Let's stop merely treading water, and let's start swimming.
Where do we start, you ask?
Well, it's not easy, with summer on the horizon and business slowing down. Two hundred years ago, our opera companies went on the road to beat the heat and keep working, and today, like them, many of us will continue that tradition and split town for some touring as well.
However, we still need to set some goals. Let's not leave without a plan to move forward. The status quo doesn't need encouragement to keep things as they are.
My new friends, who visited over Jazz Fest to apply their "user experience" wisdom toward helping people engage our music scene, imagined some extremely creative solutions that would essentially help people do what they already do more easily. Basically, this involved strategies to make it easier for listeners to tip.
Although that may work for some, others of us depend on a higher perception of value for what we do, and expect a fairer exchange with our audience than grubby bills in a pail. This may prove more difficult, because it means changing consumer behavior. Keep in mind, tourism websites brag about our music often being free, so, it's natural that many tourists presume we're paid in other ways and don't know whether or not we are being compensated fairly for our services. Sure, we could explain it, but I think there are better ways to leverage our prominence in the community.
So, here it is: Your mission, should you choose to accept it, has two parts.
1) Pick one gig you're doing soon and make it work for you better than it ever has in the past. View the venue as a partner and treat them accordingly. If they don't charge a cover, get them to charge one. If they don't put up a poster, give them one. Try to make your music or the presentation special in some way that you haven't tried before. Then, don't forget to get emails from anyone at the gig who might potentially be interested in following you.
2) Using your website, social media, or old-fashioned word of mouth, make three recommendations for other happenings in town this week. Choose a friend's gig, something you saw or read about, choose a show because it's at a venue you respect. For an extra challenge, choose performances that are not free. To really show support, personally attend your recommendations. Even if those recommendations only amount to two more seats filled for each gig, if 200 of us do it, that's an additional 1200 fans attending local shows this week.
Try it. I'll start. I've been meaning to check out a newer local Brazilian project called Chegadao. They'll be at Café Istanbul on Saturday night. It will be a fun contrast after the LPO's performance of Mahler's 9th. After the weekend, my friend Don Vappie, inspired by the energy and feedback of the festival season, will perform some new music this Tuesday at Snug Harbor.
Don't miss this opportunity to start habits that will affect positive musician-driven change in our industry. The price of leaving it to others is way too high.
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]