Amplify Music Communities

New Orleans, LA, USA
Read New Orleans's Transcript

Storm Gloor  00:03

Amplify Music Communities is a global continuation of our Amplify Music Conference where we take a journey around the world to take a look within various music ecosystems of various cities, regions, states, and countries. We’ll hear what’s happening at the ground level from leaders in these communities. Today, we’re going to visit with three leaders from the great city of New Orleans, or New Orleans, if you’re from around there, for which I’ve noticed that the city’s tagline is 24/7 since 1718 and having been there quite a bit, I can attest to that. As I’m sure these folks would. But with us for this session are Reid Wick, Senior Membership and Project Manager at the Recording Academy, Rachel Shields who is chief of staff at Greater New Orleans, Inc., and Raj Smoove, who is the greatest DJ in the world. And I’m not kidding,  that’s a title that comes from an expert on the topic, that would be Lil Wayne. So we’ll give that to him. We’re so fortunate to have these folks with us. And let’s start by talking with each of them about their area of music, and what organizations they’re a part of, or working with, and what communities they’re a part of there in New Orleans.  So let’s start with Reid. Reid, tell us about what your roles are from that aspect.

 

Reid Wick  01:34

Hey Storm. Great to see you again. And thank you for having us in the spotlight in New Orleans, it’s always important to us to be able to tell our story. So as you mentioned, I do serve in the membership and industry relations department with the Recording Academy, which is the Grammy organization for those who don’t know, and I am a lifelong musician. Been playing with the same R&B band here in New Orleans for 27 years, and several groups before that. And, and I’m proud that my fellow panelists are also local musicians as well as business people in the community. So it’s great to be in this great company. You know, I wear a different hat every day, which is one of the cool things about the job. You know, right now we’re in the middle of Grammy entry season. So we’re working with members to make sure that they get their recordings entered in. We just wrapped up a really pretty intense advocacy and public policy season here in Louisiana, then I know we’ll get into a little bit later. I also have the pleasure of serving with these folks on the New Orleans Music Economy Initiative (NOME), which is an initiative that greater New Orleans are working on that Rachel will talk about a little bit more later. And, you know, it’s also good to serve on the board of directors of Folk Alliance International, which held their last in-person conference in New Orleans right before the pandemic broke. And, you know, just participate in a lot of activities related to really promoting the music industry, both here in New Orleans and across the state and across the five regions, five states region the nicer in the academy. So it’s an exciting job. It’s exciting to be able to work with the local people who don’t have to be

 

Storm Gloor  03:15

Fantastic. Thank you, Reid. And welcome, Rachel.

 

Rachel Shields  03:18

Hey, there. Thanks so much, Storm. Hey, Reed, and Raj, great to see you guys on the big screen. Well, as Storm mentioned, I am the Chief of Staff of Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO), which is the economic development organization for the southeast region of Louisiana. And the Greater New Orleans Inc, created a couple of years ago with the help of the folks you see here on the screen, created an initiative called ‘NOME’ or that we call ‘NOME’ as Reid mentioned. That’s the New Orleans Music Economy Initiative. And we created NOME really to create a music business ecosystem here in the Greater New Orleans area that allows our artists and musicians to thrive and grow and remain in New Orleans if they wish to do that. And we do that through creating jobs and wealth and really creating this robust music ecosystem here. So it’s a really interesting opportunity for an economic development organization and economic development professionals to really look at the music economy as a robust economic development engine. It’s the first time that an organization like ours has really undertaken an effort like this, down here in New Orleans, and we’re really excited about the opportunities it presents for us in the future.

 

Storm Gloor  04:35

Awesome. Thank you, Rache. And Raj, I know I introduced you as the greatest DJ in the world but I also know there are a lot more hats than just DJing that you’re wearing. So please tell us all about that.

 

Raj Smoove  04:48

So yeah, I’ve been DJing since the eighth grade. So it’s been about three decades now. And I also produce, I’m a studio engineer. I have a studio I’m in now working from. I work with a lot of artists, as far as, you know, with management…booking. I have a creative agency called the Gentilly Agency. I have a company called GenRise, which is a collaborative with another organization called Moonrise Entertainment that I’ve started working with since the pandemic. Also, you know, proud member of NOME, and trying to really help the New Orleans music community to generate some income and some wealth and get some outside dollars into the city. So you know, it’s been a fun time. And I must say, I’ve been enjoying every day of my career.  Doing what I love. 

 

Storm Gloor  05:48

It’s not really working, is it? 

 

Raj Smoove  05:51

Well, sometimes it could feel like work. 

 

Storm Gloor  05:53

Yeah. Well, yes.

 

Raj Smoove  05:55

The love for it definitely outweighs and gets you through tough times. 

 

Storm Gloor  06:01

Well, great. Well, all right, thank you all for, for sharing with us your various roles. And I’m going to jump right in here and put you on the spot to think about the short term. And I realized that, as we sit here today, we know that the pandemic has not gone away. And especially in the past few days, we’ve seen it there in that community, I know, and that state. But, thinking about the rest of 2021 and as a result of those, with the pandemic itself, how will the rest of 2021, thinking short-term, how will it look different for this community than it did in 2019, for instance, pre-pandemic?  How will we look different here in New Orleans? I’ll let… I’ll let anyone jump in and take that.

 

Reid Wick  06:52

I’ll start by saying it’s kind of a flip flop for us because our major festival season is usually in the spring so French Quarter Fest, Jazz Fest, a lot of, Buku Fest, a lot of these festivals. And what’s interesting is that we really are the festival capital of the world. And we have festivals that celebrate everything under the sun, some are gigantic, like Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest, some are more regional, or, or very localized. But we celebrate every kind of music here, in different ways, you know, so. But because of the pandemic, and everybody not being able to do their festivals both in 2020 and 2021, in the spring.  October is like festival . . .  a mash-up of all these festivals in like one month. And so the short term for us is that we’re all trying to, one we’re all hoping that none of that gets shut down with the affer-mentioned resurgence of the COVID pandemic. But we’re hoping that our community can really rally and, and be ready to take advantage of the tourists and the opportunities to play music and sell your merchandise and, and really be ready for what will be an unprecedented October, as far as festivals go. And you know, for the live music scene, it really is sort of a crown jewel of what we have in terms of festivals. 

 

Rachel Shields  08:30

Storm, I’ll jump in there too. And really piggybacking off of what Reid said, it’s really interesting to see, you know, from the consumer side, and from the artist side as well, we’ve been locked up for quite a long time and unable to really enjoy all of the really unique aspects that music in New Orleans brings to the consumer base. And so, you know, after so long of missing these things, and having only recordings and things that we see on TV and streaming online, to really enjoy, there really is a renewed sense of urgency to support the music community in New Orleans. And there’s a renewed sense of attention on the music community in New Orleans. And that’s again on both the consumer and the artist side. Artists are hungry to get out and continue their craft and entertain people in the way that they would like to…in a way that you could only do in New Orleans and consumers from New Orleans and abroad from externally from New Orleans and Louisiana as well, are just hungry to really take all of that in and return to some semblance of remembering New Orleans and experiencing New Orleans’ music and culture the way we used to and in new ways as well. So I see that as a really good theme for the rest of 2021. Again, if we’re allowed to do so, if this pandemic starts to curve itself and allow us to continue moving in this direction. We definitely see an upside with this renewed sense of urgency and attention on music in New Orleans.

 

Raj Smoove  09:55

And also on the artist side of a lot of the creatives throughout the pandemic and the quarantine have pulled together and had an opportunity to really talk and work on their content… work on their catalog… work on their craft. So, I think there’s been a lot of material that has been released during the pandemic. But just the sense of community and camaraderie that has developed, I think, is going to cause the quality of the releases to really kind of like skyrocket like I feel we’re kind of at a tipping point, as far as the artists are concerned. You know, it’s only gonna take like two or three records to make them out of here. And then I think we really will be on the verge of a gold rush in the city.

 

Storm Gloor  10:47

Goldrush, I love it. I love it. Well, let’s think about, like, go ahead, Reid. 

 

Reid Wick  10:53

Go for platinum.

 

Storm Gloor  10:55

Platinum. Oh, there we go. Yeah. All right. Thanks for adding that. Well, okay, now let’s think longer term. I’m gonna ask you to put on your, you know, get out the crystal ball or whatever, and think longer-term now, past 2021. And let’s focus on the positive too. What do you think will be the successes or the boosts or the obstacles that will be removed that make the biggest difference in your community beyond 2021? I’ll ask that of all of you and anyone have an opinion on that?

 

Rachel Shields  11:31

Sure. I’ll jump in there first. And you guys, I know that Reid and Raj will really repeat what I’m saying, we’ve been working on this for so long together now. And these guys are masters of this universe and really go back many, many years and can talk about it in a much more broader sense than I can. But from a NOME perspective, with the New Orleans Music Economy Initiative, really thinking about things like policy development. We’ve had some successes during our last legislative session in terms of improving access and accessibility to some of these tax incentives for music production. From a policy standpoint, we’ve made some good strides, we still have a lot of work to do but that’s definitely a positive light for Louisiana. On the business development side, from a NOME perspective, again, really focusing on attracting new businesses, growing the music businesses that are already here, and really helping to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs and give them that path, that career path, and that opportunity, to go into the music business here in New Orleans, not in other major cities but right here. Having that mentorship, having those pathways created for them to really flourish, and start new businesses, is really a high priority of ours as well. As well as really marketing what we have here already, we actually do have a music ecosystem here in the New Orleans area, and being able to market that showing the rest of New Orleans, the rest of Louisiana, the nation, and the world, that New Orleans is a place, ripe for investment in the music business ecosystem here. Those are going to be our challenges. But those are things that we definitely have the expertise with folks like Reid and Raj and other partners that we’re working with on NOME to bring that to fruition. So it’s definitely a priority pathway for economic development. 

 

Raj Smoove  13:18

Yeah, and, you know, like… Oh, go ahead Reid, I’m sorry.

 

Reid Wick  13:21

I was just gonna kind of follow up on Rachel’s point there. You know, from a biz-dev standpoint, we’ve truly now, after many years of a lot of us working on public policy, we have truly the best, or the most lucrative, set of incentives in Louisiana to grow the music industry in a variety of ways. You know, it really started with the film incentives that go back to 2002. And in 2005, we looked at what was a budding successful film program, which lured a lot of the big Hollywood productions to Louisiana and help build the below-the-line infrastructure primarily, you know, the worker bees in the film industry. And we started thinking early on about how do we do something similar for the music side, and it really manifests itself as sound recordings, which we did improve a little bit this year as well, but it’s been on the books since 2005. And then, a post-Katrina kind of thing was, what was originally an attempt to rebuild some of the Grand Theaters downtown and created what they originally called Broadway South which really only gave some dollars to actually rebuild the physical infrastructure but also incentivize these big Broadway plays to rehearse and launch from New Orleans. And our industry quickly learned that we could apply the same incentives to big touring acts. So we’ve had everybody from Taylor Swift to the Blue Man Group to Cirque du Soleil, all rehearse, do the tech’s, you know, tech rehearsals, and launch their tours from here. And so they have just major tourings. And then, really, the game-changer is the most recent set of incentives that we have, which are probably some of the only ones of its kind of geared towards the music industry, which is, those other incentives are project-based, you know, Taylor Swift comes, spends six weeks, rehearses a tour, launches it from here, gets her incentives, and leaves.  Same with a big recording project.  Dave Matthews came here, spent six weeks, made a record, wound up being nominated for Album of the Year in the Grammy right? But at the end of six weeks, he collected his incentives and left. This new incentive, which we can call the quality job, Quality Music Company Program is a quality jobs program. It’s really geared towards full-time jobs in the music industry. And that’s the real economic development thing that Rachel and GNO Inc. can really use a lot more in the company sphere, in addition to things like cost of living, talent pool, I mean, all the other kinds of things that you use to lure any company here. What we have that most places don’t, is that we have just this never-ending pool of talent, and both music talent…and . . . similar to what you have in Denver with your program, you know, we have several music industry programs here in the New Orleans area, that are graduating kids that want to work in this industry, and traditionally have had to leave. But now we have companies like mirages [???] starting up and companies that Rachel’s talked about, we have an opportunity for them to stay here and either become entrepreneurs or become entry-level folks at these companies that we can either help grow or move or expand into New Orleans. But a real future is there. And you know, in looking at the economic data when already 50statesofmusic.com says that we have the music industry has a $1.2 billion impact on the GDP of Louisiana, and already has like 30,000 jobs in the industry. And Goldman Sachs says that this industry is going to double in the next 10 years in value. So that’s our real opportunity. 

 

Storm Gloor  17:15

Absolutely. Raj, did you have something to add?

 

Raj Smoove  17:19

We …uh…yeah…from the artists’ standpoint, you know, one thing that we’ve been very focused on is intellectual property. Because that is a consistent source of revenue. And there are a lot of artists here who have, you know, kind of graduated to decarlo [???] — those mid-tier artists that have been able to get placements and movies and on major album releases. And you know, we have artists like PJ Morton, you know, who moved back and you know, he won two Grammys and you know, he’s employing people here, three I’m sorry, three Grammys, you know, he just opened his studio here. You know, there’s an opportunity for us to increase our, our star potential with, so it’s not just a pool of local talent, we actually have local stars that create some gravity to bring in those national companies that, you know, Rachel and Reid are talking about to entice them to set up shop because it shows that there is revenue being created and produced in our city. So that, you know, lawyers feel like they can make a living in entertainment law, that they come down to New Orleans. That we have publishing companies that feel like there’s enough material and content here that they will be able to license where it makes sense for them to open up an office here. So you know, generating that revenue from outside and bringing it into the city, I think is one of the longer-term things that we’re actually seeing progress towards.

 

Reid Wick  18:54

Yeah, and to follow up on that. You know, while are our friends in Austin have long claimed to be the live music capital of the world. I know several other people personally and I think most of them will agree that New Orleans is really the Live Music Capital of the World, and that’s a good and bad thing, right? And I kind of call it the ‘Friday Night Gig Mentality’ that so many of our artists are only focused on the live music aspect of things. And one of the things with the NOME program that we all feel strongly about with regard to intellectual property is, how can we empower local artists to really put more of a focus on writing the best songs that they can, and then what we can do as NOME is how do we put them in front of the people that can, you know, put them up those that intellectual property into commerce that we can have more of that money flowing into their pockets. So they can create that mailbox money. And that they don’t have to live gig-to-gig, which is kind of what the pandemic really put a hurt on. Because the folks in town who didn’t get hurt as much financially, are the ones who already had an IP focus going, and they were generating income whether they were playing gigs or not. And it’s the ones who were living gig-to-gig in the clubs, and when the clubs were shut down, you know. So we really wanted to create a sustainable ecosystem that people can generate all the different, you can generate income from all the various income streams that are out there. And you know, one of the things that GNO Inc. has been super successful at is bringing in these tech companies including a lot of game manufacturers. And like, so when we look at the various, we love using Rachel’s terms, verticals that already exists in this creative space, how do we blend these into where they’re all working in conjunction with each other? And that’s part of the big picture is like, what we see is like how can we further that collaborative kind of vibe so that the movie people, the advertising people, the gamers can all look at their local music creators to actually use their music instead of going up to LA or New York and hiring these, you know, you know, work-for-hire composers, and stuff so.

 

Storm Gloor  21:02

Well, you all touched upon the artists in your… in your comments, and let’s do talk specifically about the artists and creators in your community. What programs or initiatives in this year are going to directly support their resilience from this pandemic? Do you have any that you haven’t mentioned already? Are there any programs or initiatives that are going to boost them through this?

 

Reid Wick  21:28

Well, I mean, there’s been some that have just been life-saving, like, well, I mean, to brag a little bit, you know, MusiCares has been super successful at putting, getting monies in people’s hands. But locally, you know, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation has helped a lot of people. There’s been a whole bunch of these like, you know, different organizations, some big, some small, just finding ways to raise money. There’s some interesting ones that popped up, for instance, my band just played live from The Funky Uncle which is this Mardi Gras crew called Tucks that does the Mardi Gras. parades and they literally set up like in their den where they keep all the floats and set up a stage and a camera setup and you now have done like 80 shows and they’ve raised $430,000 to put in the hands of not only the musicians but also the crews and things like that. And so when you see these people rally who are not even in the music industry, they just love music. When you see these people rally around, what they see is our natural treasure, our musicians, and our music creators. It’s just heartwarming to know that people really care about it that much that they’ll literally carve out enormous times of their, enormous chunks of their time and their dollars to make it happen. Raj and Rachel, I’m sure you all have seen other similar kinds of things spring up to, you know,

 

Raj Smoove  22:50

Yeah. The Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy with everything being shut down and kind of moving into the streaming world. The cultural economy office here helped to create a platform for artists to, you know, still be able to perform, you know, live over stream and, you know, was able to service them with you know, some small stipends you know, just to kind of help cushion the blow of the pandemic. You know, as, like every little bit helps. You know, and now also, you know kind of helped me to be able to pivot into, you know, event production and also to connect some more of those, those dots because you know we had to find some venues for those streaming events to happen at, you know saying. So, you know, the House of Blues and Fillmore Live Nation were gracious enough to allow local artists to come in and perform with the support of the city. And that spawned some other streaming cities, some other streamings series that have garnered a lot of attention for artists from the city. So like, even though the venues weren’t open to the public, people can still connect with their fans and make new fans and, you know, hopefully, create different sources of revenue that they didn’t have previously.

 

Rachel Shields  24:18

That’s super interesting because we know, you know, artists and musicians themselves were among the hardest hit of any industry sector in any worker or employee or business owner out there, across the nation. Not just across the nation, but really across the globe and so when we think about the gig economy and New Orleans having one of the largest gig economies in the entirety of the United States here. It’s a significant impact on our musicians and our artists here. So all of those new pathways when we talk about new uses of technology, new uses of live music venues, new uses and ways of streaming music and connecting with fans, all of those things that artists and musicians were able to be creative about, think outside of the box on, and collaborate with each other on have really been just really incredible and outstanding and says a lot for the future of the resiliency of our artists and musicians. And so, that being said, a lot of the things that NOME and Reid and Raj and other partners here are helping us do really will be a huge part in creating that resilience, creating that mailbox money. So that when things like this do interrupt our economy and the ways in which we do business we are much more resilient economy. So the last thing I’ll point out in terms of sustainability and being able to help support that Gig economy here, on the heels of the pandemic is the federal program, the Shuttered Venues program (SVOG) that rolled out I want to say almost $8 billion in revenue across the nation, but 107 or 108 million of that has come to Louisiana alone. And so that will be another boon or is another boon in the pockets of our live music venues and other venues to really kind of kickstart what we call Festival Season down here in New Orleans, and really reigniting what we’ve not been able to do over the last almost two years.

 

Reid Wick  26:13

You know, I think a silver lining that I’ve kind of noticed, both at the city level and the state level is, I mean, realistically, tourism is the number one industry in New Orleans, and it’s the number three employer in the state of Louisiana. And, you know, unfortunately, it’s been the tourism folks that almost wagging the tail of the music industry. And I’ve always argued that it’s the other way around. You know, it’s really the music and the food and things that drive tourism. It’s not the other way around. It’s not tourism that drives music. Like without music here, you’d have no tourism. And so I think that that, that sort of flipping of the reality has come to the point where the politicians in Baton Rouge this year when you talk about music, oh, you know, the people in my local community, you know, they aren’t, the tourism dollars aren’t coming through and it really is, you know, it’s affecting the musicians. But it’s because there’s no music and things like that, that also, you know, I think it’s really shined a spotlight on how important music is to the rest of that part of the economy. You know, for us, as NOME and the other kinds of organizations that really are pushing music, I think it’s encumbered upon us to make sure that we maintain that message that this is how important this is to our economy. And that’s been one of my goals forever is, you know, I’ve always seen us as an industry that’s been taken for granted, because for anybody who really knows anything about New Orleans, music has been integral to life in New Orleans for the entire 300 plus years that the city has been here, right? I mean, we say that we’re born to music, we’re married to music, we’re buried to music. I mean, it’s always been here, so it’s easy to take it for granted. And because I mean, everybody on this call knows, music, the industry is often seen, or not seen, that’s the problem. It’s an invisible industry in a lot of ways because everybody can identify with the person on the stage, what they don’t realize is that for that one person on the stage, there may be 100 people behind the scenes that are making that show happen. And so you really have to talk in terms of that economic impact and the jobs that are affected one way or the other, positively or negatively. And I think that that’s where we’ve seen organizations like NIVA come up with posts for the SVOG that Rachel was just referring to and things like that. Those are the kind of things I think that have really opened the eyes to a lot of people that this really is a huge industry. That’s right on our, that’s been under our nose for a long time. And they haven’t really seen it as an industry that has an equal seat at the table, which is why Rachel and Raj can tell you when we first got GNO, Inc. to kind of take NOME on as a project, we sat in their conference room in this beautiful office that they have and said; we’ve already won because we finally are sitting here with GNO, Inc. and they’re taking us seriously as an industry to promote just like tech and agriculture and shipping and you know, transportation, all the other things that they support in their various business sectors. And to be accepted as a legitimate business sector is already a win for us in a lot of ways. And so now it’s just like the last three or four years that we’ve been working together. It’s like, of course, the pandemic put a big roadblock in the middle of all of that, but as Rachel was saying earlier, I think that this festival season coming up. The people that will be coming in, the opportunity for us to really talk about how important this is, is like right in front of us and we’re ready to go grab it and run.

 

Storm Gloor  29:46

Thank you, Reid, and let’s come back to that government piece you mentioned, the policy piece here in a few minutes. I want explore that a little more. And Rachel mentioned the sort of two-year window and let’s take a trip back to 2019. What issues existed then in the music ecosystem there in New Orleans that still need to be addressed post-pandemic? So pre-pandemic issues that existed that are still here with us. Any of those? I’ll open to anyone.

 

Rachel Shields  30:18

Yeah, there are still some of those. Really looking at, you know, kind of building a business economy through a new sector, from an economic development perspective, can take a really long time and can be a lot of really hard work. For example, we’ve had, you know, many many studies on the business impact the music economy here in the Greater New Orleans area that sat on shelves and that have just taken on dust for a really long time. And part of that is because, you know, our music business economy has been very fractured in the past. We do have a music business economy here, but all of those pieces and part don’t always play together very well in can be very, very fast augmented at time. So that was one of the things that NOME decided to tackle upfront when we worked with these guys and really put together the strategy, which can be found by the way at nolamusic.biz, again that’s nolamusic.biz. You can go online and take a look at our strategy there. But you can see some of those pieces and parts listed in that strategy there that have come to fruition, some of them, and some of them have a long way to go. There’s a lot of work to be done. But one of the most, I think important on aspects of that strategy for NOME is really creating that music hub, creating this sort of music village if you will, where creatives can come together, network together, and work together. Where businesses, the financial side, the legal side, the production side, all those entities can come together and find a home in one place and collaborate with like-minded individuals in the same sort of ecosystem. Where education partners, our higher ed institutions, and all of our nonprofit institutions that are providing all kinds of music education, can come together and find each other and work together. Where external, you know, artists who don’t live or normally work in Louisiana or in New Orleans can come here and find a home here and connect with other music business professionals here. And where entrepreneurs can find that mentorship and can find all of those pieces and parts to help them begin to learn how to monetize their music in various different ways. Building that hub, whether that’s a physical space, whether that’s a digital space, building those music hubs is one of those pieces in our strategy that we’re desperately working on with our partners. We’ve made a lot of headway in identifying some pathways and avenues to help us get there. It’s just one of those things that takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of opportunity to really get it right. Because we’ve got one shot, absolutely one shot at this. And together, we want to make sure that we do it right in a way that is resilient and lasting that really can be that sort of hub and spoke for developing our music environment here.

 

Storm Gloor  33:14

Okay, thank you. Anyone else? 

 

Reid Wick  33:17

That’s why we love Rachel. She knows how to spell it out really well. 

 

Storm Gloor  33:20

Yeah, I was gonna say very well said, Rachel.

 

Rachel Shields  33:25

I’ve learned… I’ve learned from the best. You know, I’m an economic developer. And I like to say sometimes that you know, in economic development, we’re not experts at anything, but what we are experts at are finding the right people with the right expertise, bringing them to the table, and facilitating that conversation to get us to what’s next. And that’s what NOME has been able to do with Raj and with Reid and the other NOME steering committee members. We’ve been able to pull together all of those experts who have been doing this for decades, and who understand where the issues are and how to make them work. And together, we’ve really been able to create something very, very, very special. So it’s me who thanks, you Reid and Raj.

 

Storm Gloor  34:06

I love it. Well, my next question is literally what new organizations or businesses have emerged since the beginning of 2020, and Rachel, I want to talk about NOME. We’ve referred to it several times in this conversation, and I understand that it actually started a little before the pandemic, but could you tell us about the origins of NOME, and when it did start, and really the overarching strategies behind it?

 

Rachel Shields  34:48

Yeah, sure. I guess it’s been about three years ago now. You know, several members of our now NOME steering committee came to GNO, Inc. just like Reid mentioned, and said, you know, we’ve got a real opportunity here to really look at the music business in New Orleans as an economic driver for Greater New Orleans. We’ve had these conversations for a number of years but it’s now time to really turn that corner and put action and revenue and resources to really creating this.  Because, you know, while New Orleans is known as one of the creative talent pools in all the worlds arguing one of the deepest pools of talent in all the world, you know, other major metro areas are eating our lunch when It comes to the business side of music when we’re talking about LA and Austin and Nashville and others parts of the world they’re eating our lunch and they’re poaching all of our creativity here from New Orleans and so we need to, to curb that. And that really was the very beginnings of how NOME came about. From there, we connected with a global music from called Sound Diplomacy to really help us analyze our music ecosystem here, map out the infrastructure and assets that we have, to map out the assets that we don’t have, and try to find a common ground and a strategy to really go after those things. All in a very simultaneous way. And so that strategy, that full strategy that you can find at nolamusic.biz, really mapped out the key points of that strategy and they’re focused on policy enhancement, on business development, that’s the attraction side and also the growth and retention side. And marketing the assets that we do have. Not only just assets, showing the world what we have here, but encouraging music business professionals to invest in the Greater New Orleans area. And so here we are today with this very, very robust program where we are collaborating and partnering with music business professionals, artists from every walk of life across Greater New Orleans. And so, one of our biggest challenges, I think from, on the heels of the pandemic, is kind of picking up where we left off. To continue the conversations and continue to let folks know that, you know, that while we went through something that is unique that we may not ever go through again in our lifetimes, we are still here we are still resilient and now more than ever our community is more invested in this robust music ecosystem here. That’s where we are.

 

Storm Gloor  37:17

And thank you. That helps immensely in understanding what you’re doing and it also absolutely outlines the breadth of what you’ve got going there and that’s a huge, huge undertaking. So, thank you. And in terms of new programs, Raj, I understand that you’ve got a program that you’ve started during this pandemic. Do you want to share about that?

 

Raj Smoove  37:43

Yeah. So in 2019, we were doing the NOME roundtables and bringing different people from the community together. From those conversations, a lot of different relationships started up. And some of those relationships were the people that I was working with. You know, we realize we kind of had a lot of shared vision and that developed into a little bit of a brain trust to where you know, we would, you know consult with each other and get input on stuff that we were working on and then when the quarantine hit and we all kind of had to pivot, that brain trust kind of started to solidify and me and my partner Lou Hill, he has a company called Moonrise Entertainment, and he’s been, you know, he has a band called Water Seed. They do a lot of live touring and events and stuff and he’s also done, like marketing and promotions for some of the local labels. And you know, I have a background in, you know, kind of just about everything. I’ve dipped my toe in the pool. And I have people that work with me that you know, do marketing, and you know writers and PR. And kinda like naturally we just coalesced into a new organization which you know became GenRise which the Gentilly Agency and Moonrise and kind of put that together. And that’s what we got the name from. So it’s definitely allowed us to operate at a higher level of productivity because I don’t have to do everything myself anymore. You know, that’s kind of been New Orleans’, you know the mantra of the artists/entrepreneur. They feel like they have to do everything themselves because they don’t know who else out here in the scene and in the community. That is supplying and giving that support In these different areas that they need expertise in. So, you know, I think that’s one of the biggest things I’ve been campaigning for on the ground level with artists, is letting folks know like hey like you’re not in this alone, like we have a whole lot of other people that we can connect with that can help you take what you’re doing to the whole next level like, you know, I always bring up the fable of the stone soup. I don’t know if y’all heard that story, you know when y’all in elementary school but you know a guy walks into town and everybody in town is starving like; hey let’s make some stone soup. And you know he just puts the fake magic rock in the pot, and then everybody comes and contributes what they have to the meal. And then all of a sudden everybody’s stomach is full, and I kind of look at that as a great parable for what we have here in the city of New Orleans that if everybody in our industry comes and contributes what they have to the pot, everyone will be able to eat and we can get away from the gig economy which has kind of leaned on the tourism economy. People have in their minds that you know it’s kind of, I have to trade my time for my income, as opposed to let’s put our ideas together and let our ideas generate this revenue through the intellectual property, and then we can, you know, take our time and value time and do other stuff with it. And also you know with revenue comes opportunity for new investment and other businesses which supply jobs. It turns into more taxable income for the city and for the state which means more programs for education for, you know, health and hospitals and, you know, we need more health and education on science and stuff, with everything we’ve been dealing with, with a pandemic. So there’s just, there’s a whole bunch of positive things that come out of the work it is that we’re doing and trying to generate more revenue for the artists that we have here in the city and business.

 

Storm Gloor  02:02

Well, that’s this so great that you’ve undertaken this and best wishes and you’re the right person to be leading this so thank you. Well, as we sort of start closing out, I would be remiss if we didn’t talk about that topic again I said earlier, we want to come back to it Reid, government policy. And I know Raj, you mentioned the mayor’s initiative and supporting the streaming but but what, what has your community level government done to boost music in 2020? And what, what do they have in motion for 2021 and beyond? So what is the government doing? And Reid, do you want to talk about. I know you spent some time on Advocacy Day, excuse me there, working towards some of the initiatives that you all are looking for.

 

Reid Wick  02:57

Yeah, so, I mean, me personally, most of my efforts are at the state level when it comes to the public policy and advocacy work. Luckily one of the big pillars of the Recording Academy is to do public policy and advocacy work, and the bulk of that work is done at the federal level through our Washington DC office. And, you know, that’s everything from making sure that the Music Modernization Act got passed, this year we’re working on three initiatives. But, you know, Louisiana is one of the few states where they’ve really allowed us to, and it’s probably because of the 15 years plus of history that we’ve already had some state engagement in music industry development, so they let me really start running with it about six or seven years ago, and we started doing an annual Music and Advocacy Day. So we invite members from all over. I used to get one of our Grammy winners and nominees come sing the national anthem. You know, we go meet with our Congress, not Congress, but our House and State Representatives where I try to bring the music community to Baton Rouge and actually come to the state capitol. So, you know, we’ve had everybody. This past year we had Tank from Tank and the Bangas who were nominated, you know, first artists ever from New Orleans to be nominated for Best New Artist in the Grammys. last year. You know, she came in and sang the national anthem, gets everybody’s attention. We have an opportunity to meet with folks. And as I briefly touched on earlier. We passed a revision to that, that Quality Music Company Law that, you know, we passed it originally in 2017 and it needed some tweaks to really make it usable to the full extent. And we were able to get that passed this year. So I think from a state level, you know, we have a fairly new legislature, a whole set who are way more interested in music than maybe some of the ones who are no longer in the legislature which is a good thing. At the city level, I haven’t been as active, but I do know many people who have been. And, you know, there’s, trying to think of the best way to describe it. I mean I think that there’s a lot of awareness of how important music is at the city level, I think that there’s a lot of work to be done. As Rachel mentioned earlier about the hub of activity, I mean I’ve had some strategic meetings with the Economic Development Department at the city who believes in that as well. They know that the city has a lot of assets that they’re sitting on. They’re actually supposed to be releasing some report any day now that I haven’t seen yet but I was told is coming out, that will address how the city can actually take some action to move this ball forward. When Rachel mentioned the Sound Diplomacy study that we did awhile back, they actually had I think 39 different recommendations in their study, and a handful of them were things that the city could do. And while GNO, Inc. and our team on the NOME will be cheerleaders for that, it’s really action items that the city needs to take on as well as there’s action items for higher ed, some that we’re already engaged with, with the higher ed community. So, you know, I think the, there’s a lot of work still left to be done with public policy at the city level. I really am hopeful that you know the mayor and the city council, especially an election season coming up that we can actually have some more visibility in making sure that music-friendly policy is something that they’ll support as they get either elected or re-elected. I know a couple of city council people that are running, have been supportive at the state level when they were in the State Senate. So I’m hoping that we can continue to, I don’t want to say twist their arms but you know, continue to advocate that they will take that same support of the music industry into their office if they do get elected at the city council level. But, you know, tying it all up, you know, I think it’s a combination of all these things, you know, of the opportunities that present themselves like what Raj and Lou are doing with GenRise, you know, we’ve already seen some successes of music-oriented companies move here, some directly because of NOME, some for longer term. Because a number of us as Rachel mentioned earlier, have been working on this for years and trying to get different companies to think about New Orleans as a place to open up or expand or relocate to. So we’ve seen some successes we’ve already had a couple of misses which is naturally going to happen, but I think that as we come out of the pandemic, the opportunity to really start doing some real marketing, of what we have here, and that’s coming up soon. Rachel’s coming to Nashville with me and we’re actually doing a Music City’s panel at Americana, in a couple weeks or a month, and we’re going to do some outreach while we’re there. You know, so I think that those kinds of opportunities are on the horizon and that there’s a lot of potential for making those, you know, taking those steps and going in the right direction.

 

Storm Gloor  08:09

Right. Thank you. 

 

Reid Wick  08:09

I don’t know if I answered your question or not, but. 

 

Storm Gloor  08:11

Oh yeah, oh yeah. Thank you, Reid. And Raj, Rachel, anything to add? 

 

Rachel Shields  08:18

I’ll defer to Raj.

 

Raj Smoove  08:20

I think Reid summed that up pretty well.

 

Rachel Shields  08:24

I do too, and the only thing that I would add to that is really looking at things in terms of what government is doing in 2021 and going into 2022. We’re really looking at things from two different verticals or two different perspectives, right? One is picking up where we left off and making sure that we are able to continue our work in business development, that we’re able to continue our work in marketing New Orleans and Louisiana as a place to invest. But also, this again renewed urgency and getting back to some sense of normalcy when we talk about festival season and the gig economy. You know there are things that we absolutely have to start some momentum around as well. And so the city of New Orleans, in particular, has been doing a really great job in looking at restarting these festivals we think about French Quarter Festival and Jazz Festival and even smaller festivals like Wednesdays at the Square which is put on by the young leadership council here. All of those things are incredibly important to restarting our music community here in the New Orleans area. So all of that long-term, really hard work in addition to all of the stuff that we do very, very well all has to move simultaneously at the same time in 2021 and 2022. So as Raj was saying earlier, it takes a village. It takes every single one of us to really work on these things to push them through at the same time to make 2021 a success, and 2022 a very optimistic time for us to continue those successes, so.

 

Storm Gloor  09:51

And we will see those successes I’m optimistic. After talking with you all, I’m extremely confident. But Reid, Raj, Rachel, and listeners and viewers I promise our qualification wasn’t that you had to have an ‘R’ at the beginning of your name but it flows so well; Reid, Raj, Rachel. Thank you so much for being here today for this conversation. New Orleans has proved to be resilient in the past, and our conversation today clearly indicates that these leaders are working toward building a bigger and better music ecosystem as we come out of this pandemic and so I very much appreciate you all being here. That concludes our conversation today. Thank you for checking out this edition of Amplify Music Communities. Learn more by going to amplifymusic.org/communities where you can subscribe to our podcast feed for more episodes.

Our New Orleans Speakers

Rachel Shields

Rachel Shields

Chief Of Staff, Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Raj Smoove

Raj Smoove

DJ; The Gentilly Agency

Reid Wick

Reid Wick

Sr. Membership & Project Manager, Recording Academy

 

 

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