New Orleans, LA, USA   –   Research

Geography & Demographics

  • Total population: ~390,144 as of 2019 (U.S. Census Bureau)
    • 484,674 before Katrina (April 2000), a decrease of over half the population after Katrina (July 2006) (Facts for Features, 2016)
    • Population has been increasing since then
  • Known as a “melting pot,” multicultural (Le Menestrel & Henry, 2010)
  • Economic opportunities for both high-skilled and low-skilled workers 
    • Much of the population is foreign-born (over 57 percent of new movers in New Orleans are from outside of Louisiana) (Who Lives in New Orleans, 2020)
  • The majority of city residents are African American at 59% of the population with whites as the second majority
    • 92,974 fewer African Americans since 2000 (African American Population is currently decreasing) (Who Lives in New Orleans, 2020)
  • The number of Hispanics grew by 6,658 since 2000 (Who Lives in New Orleans, 2020)
  • The median age of the metro area has risen from 34.8 to 38.8 since 2000 (Who Lives in New Orleans, 2020)
  • Trends: birth rate decline, fewer households with children, and more individuals living alone (Who Lives in New Orleans, 2020)
  • Number of adults with high school education and Bachelors degree education have risen since 2000, but are fewer than the US average (Who Lives in New Orleans, 2020)
  • Median household income is lower than the US average (Who Lives in New Orleans, 2020)
  • Only 65-70% of households are connected to the internet through home based internet services compared to the 75% average (Who Lives in New Orleans, 2020)
  • The poverty rate has decreased since 1999 (Who Lives in New Orleans, 2020)
  • “It is not an efficient city…it’s always been a dirty city… the kind of place where people are attracted to for specific reasons not just to get a job there”

COVID Standings: Statistics, Re-Opening, Etc.

  • 487,558 total COVID cases, 10,781 total deaths (COVID-19 Information, 2021)
    • Disproportionate deaths for African Americans (Black people make up 76.8% of deaths compared to 19.7% white)
    • More white people vaccinated than other demographics (60% compared to 30% African American)
  • Residents can get vaccinated for a chance to win prizes, including $1 million (COVID-19 Information, 2021)
  • From phase 1 in March 2020 (most restricted), to phase 2 in June 2020, to phase 3 in October 2020, back to phase 2 in December 2020, back to phase 1 in January 2021, to phase 2 in February 2021, phase 3 in March 2021, to reopening in May 2021 with current corrections (COVID Restrictions, 2021). However, with another surge in August 2021, more mask mandates and restrictions have been set in place by Gov. Edwards. 
    • Following the trends of increasing/decreasing COVID numbers
  • Reopened with some restrictions May 28, 2021 (COVID Restrictions, 2021)
    • Large indoor events at 50% capacity without mask or distancing (full with masks)
    • Outdoor events at 75%, same restrictions as above 
    • Live Performance venues open
      • Performers must be fully vaccinated or test negative
      • Sanitization
      • Indoor live entertainment must follow restrictions above
    • Concerts and music halls open at 100% 
    • Need a permit for live entertainment 
    • Street performers allowed to perform, encouraged to maintain small audiences
    • Windblown instruments must have a bell cover or be in an instrument bag
    • Using speakers to avoid projecting voices
    • Front porch concerts 
    • Live entertainment at private residences are allowed under the guidelines
  • As of Fall 2021, all in-person festivals are canceled due to the Delta variant (Cindy Mayes)
    • Other outdoor live concerts are also being canceled

Trends in Live & Recorded Music (Pre-COVID)

    • The majority of revenue is generated from live performances, musicians generate a lot of income from the gig economy (Brasted, 2018)
    • Musicians getting employed directly by the restaurants, venues, & bars where they play their gigs 
      • Not many organized, established resources for musicians to turn to on the recording side
        • No major labels located in the city
        • The record labels that do exist are all local, DIY (Morton Records, Esplanade Studios)
        • No major publishers located in the city
        • As a result, many performers tend to live gig-to-gig (gig economy)  (NOLA Interview 2021)
      • For musicians who want to break out of the city & grow their audiences beyond NOLA, they generally have to move elsewhere to create & distribute recorded music
      • Post-Katrina, the music industry was focused on bringing in big touring acts (Taylor Swift, The Blue Man Group, etc.) to do both recording & performance-based projects that create revenue (NOLA Interview 2021)
      • In 2016, the city had 10.45 million tourists, which contributed to growth & attendance in live performances (Brasted, 2018)
      • Historically, NOLA has been home to many hit musicians (Fats Domino/Little Richard in the 50s & Allen Toussaint in the 60s-70s), however, very few NOLA musicians today have music out that has sold over 25,000 copies (Ramsey, 2019)
        • A recent example would be Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV, which sold 2.5 million copies in 2011 (Ramsey, 2019)

      Frictions & Tensions

      • Pre (and post) COVID: Tension between musicians and the government, using musicians as tourist bait but treating them poorly, not feeling comfortable to produce what they need to produce (Le Menestrel & Henry, 2010)
        • Struggle for musicians to get resources through organized channels, organizations made to deal w/ this but there is still a need
      • Lack of music-business jobs (management, publishing, law) & revenue present in the city, most of these professionals have had to move out of NOLA to pursue these jobs (Fitzpatrick, 2020)
      • Pre-COVID: Musicians relied on contacts with other artists and interactions with the public (Le Menestrel & Henry, 2010)
      • The future of NOLA music depends on the ability of musicians to resume meaningful practice through involvement in networks and interactions rather than permanently returning to the city/being able to earn a living there (Le Menestrel & Henry, 2010)
        • Brass bands, second lines, innovative jazz combos 
      • NOLA’s music industry in the past has been very fractured, & there has been a lack of urgency when it comes to putting together all the pieces of the business side of music (NOLA Interview 2021)
      • Hurricane Ida, which hit NOLA at the end of August 2021, has left infrastructure in shambles, and many citizens in cramped quarters with no power or air conditioning/heat. The devastation will surely affect COVID numbers and therefore the music economy.

      COVID Impact on Music Sector Health

      • COVID pandemic has had similar effects on the music industry compared to Katrina (Teo, 2021)
        • Musicians putting on impromptu live, socially distant performances (Jacques Ferland’s Piano on a Truck) to keep spirits up, despite not getting paid (Teo, 2021)
      • A need for both direct aid & replacement income, providing both immediate & long-term relief (Important Takeaways from Katrina, Amplify Music 2020)
        • Increased need to provide direct assistance to various cultural communities (Important Takeaways from Katrina, Amplify Music 2020) 
          • Organizations responding to this need previously are now working to speed up the relief process, helping as many as possible (Important Takeaways from Katrina, Amplify Music 2020)
        • Major festival season for NOLA is usually in the spring, w/French Quarter Fest, Jazz Fest, etc., but they couldn’t happen Spring 2021 or Spring 2020 due to COVID → they all moved to October 2021 → recently moved again to the Spring of 2022 (NOLA Interview 2021)
        • Renewed sense of urgency with both artists & audiences. Artists want to showcase their art again, & audiences want to experience it (NOLA Interview 2021)


        • Recently, the New Orleans government has created offices and programs, including the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy, to organize the city’s music scene & greater entertainment life
        • Mayor’s Office of Cultural Economy’s “Embrace the Culture” series: a program to give artists of all kinds a platform during the pandemic to build their audience/bring in revenue (Cultural Economy, 2021).
          • COVID response – providing artists with direction towards relief funds, grants, campaign applications, & other important resources
        • To address the city’s lack of infrastructure when it comes to the business side of the industry, Greater New Orleans Inc. developed the New Orleans Music Economy:
          • Intends to provide at least 15% credit to all music industry professionals (Fitzpatrick, 2020)
          • Completed data analysis & found that areas of music administration & monetization could be improved
            • There is a lack of funding & opportunity going into these areas, thus a lack of revenue coming out (Hecht, 2020)
          • Will prioritize bringing specific music companies into the city to create jobs, including but not limited to music publishers, recording labels, & music conferences (Hecht, 2020)
          • Will also create a number of policies to support local music businesses financially & to bring awareness to the challenges that the NOLA music industry faces (Hecht, 2020)
        • COVID: Mayor’s office waived the 2021 Alcoholic Beverage Outlet (ABO) & Mayoralty Permit fees for music venues
        • Quality Music Company Program – program through GNO Inc. meant to help provide more quality, full-time jobs in the music industry (NOLA Interview)
        • A “right to work” law in Louisiana strips venue workers of liveable wage (Cindy Mayes)
        • As of Fall 2021, heavy regulation of outdoor music spaces (Ashlye Keaton)

        Government Funding

        • Since COVID began, NOLA has emphasized that city venues & musicians should utilize the programs created in response to the pandemic. Although there is some government funding for these programs, most are nonprofits.
          • The Payroll Protection Program (PPP) provides forgivable loans to business owners (Hecht, 2020)
          • The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) allows for businesses to increase their respective loan amounts to receive an increased advance (Hecht, 2020)
          • The Small Business Act’s (SBA) Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) – “established by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act”, plans to distributes $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues (Cultural Economy, 2021).
        • Shuttered Venues program (SVOG) rolled out $8 billion to help out venues across the country, & roughly $107-108 million of that has helped out NOLA venues (NOLA Interview 2021)
          • New Orleans Tourism & Cultural Fund (NOTCF) providing mini-grants (up to $2k) for venues & musicians that comply with reopening guidelines (Mayor, 2021)
            • The most government funding for the creative economy goes towards protecting tourism
          • Overall, very little artist support and funding from the government. Most has come from nonprofits (Ashlye Keaton)
          • The city lumps musicians with service industry workers in COVID response protocol (Cindy Mayes)


          Amplify Music. (2020). Important Takeaways from Katrina: The Challenges of New Orleans are the World’s Challenges – S. 36. YouTube. 

          Brasted, C. (2018, March 8). Can New Orleans become a thriving music industry hub like Nashville? 

          Dept of Health (2021).  COVID-19 Information. Louisiana Coronavirus | Department of Health | State of Louisiana. 

          COVID Restrictions. Phases – NOLA Ready. (2021, July). 

          Cultural Economy – City of New Orleans. (2021, July). 

          Facts for Features: Katrina Impact. The Data Center. (2016). 

          Fitzpatrick, G. (2020). New Orleans: Making Music Make Money.

          Florida, R., & Jackson, S. (2009). Sonic City: The Evolving Economic Geography of the Music Industry. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 29(3), 310–321.×09354453.

          GISGeography. (2021, June 3). Map of New Orleans, Louisiana. GIS Geography. 

          Hecht, M. (2020). New Orleans Music Economy.

          Hospitality Enterprises New Orleans. (2021). New Orleans Area Maps. 

          Le Menestrel, S., & Henry, J. (2010). “Sing Us Back Home”: Music, Place, and the Production of Locality in Post-Katrina New Orleans. Popular Music and Society, 33(2), 179–202. 

          Mayor’s Office (2021, April).  City Announces Music Relief Program and Reminds Businesses about Federal and Local Programs – City of New Orleans. 

          Sound Diplomacy (2021).  New Orleans. Sound Diplomacy. 

          Ramsey, J. (2019, March 21). What Does A New Orleans Music Industry Actually Mean? Guest Editorial. OffBeat Magazine. 

          The New York Times. (2021, July 15). Louisiana Coronavirus Map and Case Count. The New York Times. 

          Teo, T. (2021, April 26). New Orleans music scene re-emerges after COVID closures. AJC. 

          U.S. Census (n.d.) Bureau QuickFacts: New Orleans city, Louisiana. 

          Weinstein, R., & Plyer, A. (2020, June 25). Detailed data sheds new light on racial disparities IN COVID-19 deaths. The Data Center. 

          Who Lives in New Orleans and Metro Parishes Now? The Data Center. (2020). 

          Wilson, S. (2021, August 3). Vaccination rates for African Americans still lag; LA. COVID19 task force works to improve the numbers.