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Riffing On the Tradition: Say It Over and Over Again -- Making music listings count

This is the third and last article devoted to how we can prepare for the festival season. We discussed improving our Web presence and how venue operators who truly want to work WITH us can raise the bar, so to speak.

Now, I think we also need to do an overhaul of how music listings work in our city. I’m so weary of this familiar complaint from people who love the sounds of New Orleans: "We can’t find the music we’re looking for. Where should we go?"

This is a huge problem because, unlike our citizenry, one-third of which still does not have computer access and/or computer literacy, almost all of our visitors WILL be using the Internet to find the cultural activities they are coming to engage and enjoy. If we don’t make it easier for them to find us, we’re leaving way too much to chance and squandering valuable opportunities to be heard.

Do an Internet search for “music in New Orleans,” as I did. What you'll find for listings, in my opinion, is totally unsatisfactory for connecting people to our invaluable service. First, you'll find the websites of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation and the online version of The Times-Picayune. NOTMC has links for "music clubs" and another for "jazz clubs." In these incomplete and often inaccurate alphabetical lists, you'll see clubs that have been closed for years, and hotels that give no specifics about their music. And the shorter “jazz clubs" list?” I found it bewildering. Fewer than half of the venues in NOTMC’s lists have working links that can lead someone to specific listings of live music.

I find that NOLA.com is also close to useless, even if one knows what they’re looking for. It's not easy to find the calendar, and all “entertainment” listings are lumped together, so visitors clicking on a specific date won't see music events until at least the fifth page. You can sort the calendar by selecting "music" in the drop-down menu, but the only details are maps to venues, unless a user-submitted event provides a short description.

So, what does that leave? Well, three services familiar to most of us are indeed much more useful, and invite performers and presenters to submit events easily: Offbeat Magazine, Gambit Weekly’s BestofNewOrleans.com and WWOZ radio’s Livewire Music Calendar. However, even these sites don't serve newcomers to our scene as well as they do locals and, except for what I deem to be counter-productive “genre” labels, do little to help anyone who wants to differentiate their work in the musical landscape.

Despite having the best print publication for music-lovers, Offbeat’s online music listings offer no informative links to venues or artists, no shareability of specific events, and no option for comments or ratings. Gambit’s smartphone platform highlights only a handful of shows, but despite the desktop version’s more complete list and the ability to comment on and share individual events, there are no descriptions of events and no links to performers. Both the mobile and desktop platforms of WWOZ’s Livewire are easier to navigate, have potential for comments and shareability and even have a symbol for non-smoking venues. But, still no links to the artists, only the venues.

Maybe you've heard about gigsguru.com? One of the Superbowl CodeMakers Super Challenge winners, alongside DigitalTipJar.com, "Gigs Guru" was created to help users find local live music. Well, as far as I can tell, it really only amalgamates the listing tools named here. However, unlike the others, it DOES allow a link to information about the artist. Keep your eye on this one as it develops.

I honestly don’t see much changing before April. Someday, hopefully, someone will get as fed up as I and create something better. But, for now, here’s the workaround I suggest.

Make sure your events are on your website or at least social media, then make sure the venues also have that information to whatever extent they display events. Then, don’t leave out ANY of these free services and, when available, use the comment function to creatively place pertinent links such as website information.

“Build it and they will come,” can only work if we show people how to get to “it.”

Let’s get to work.

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 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]