|Just Asking Questions:| So where are all the New Orleans cultural and economic experts, and what’ve they done over the last 7 months to improve the lives, wages and business infrastructure? And while the city was “embracing the culture,” while paying bands $400, what’ve they done to ensure all the musicians, cultural bearers and artist get their/our FAIR SHARE from the millions of state dollars negotiated pre-Covid19?
Truth is, the same folk who claim to be experts and advocates are the same ones trying to get city contracts, be on city boards and get free invites to politically influenced parties, so they can’t really advocate because they’re looking out for their best interest, not yours. Sadly, after 7 months of mandated shutdown, when live entertainment does become allowable, nothing has changed for the better; I’m betting pay and opportunities will actually be worsened.
I’ve watched, studied, researched, written about, talked about New Orleans’ cultural economy, interviewed my dad along with dozens of elders, been an active performer for more than 30 years and cultural entrepreneur for over 20 years. I’ve watched the same folk (so called experts, advocates and gatekeepers) dance around the political tables. I’ve ran into those same people rubbing elbows at private parties. I’ve had those same people emailing me and wanting to do lunch or coffee, talk about the culture. I’ve also watched the same musicians and performers bounce from poverty to above poverty to below poverty, while others bounce from rehab to clean to homelessness back to rehab, with a magazine or newspaper article or mention to feed the ego from time to time.
As a cultural performer recently posted on her social media: “I feel sad to see that, after going through everything that has gone on this past year, entertainment practices appear largely unchanged; No accountability necessary. Just pick up where we left off on March 15th, I guess.”
And yes, that might sound cynical, but it pretty much sums everything up in the grand scheme of things, because ain’t shit changed but the dates and the weather!
Strange how suddenly the most praised and exploited commodity in New Orleans completely fell off the map. From the initial shutdown to the recent Phase 3.1 announcement, there has not been a single mention, protocol, or suggestive approach for (potential) performances or innovative ways to support the musicians, artist and cultural performers. But I assure you, when the time comes, the commercials, billboards and TV ads will be plentiful, and filled with cultural representation.
For musicians, artist, and cultural performers, the primary conversations should have been: knowing your worth, understanding and demanding your value, sharing the profits, enhancing what performance looks like, sounds like and pays. But sadly, after 7 months, and who knows how many more, because they’ve been no conversations, the post-Covid19 scene will be more of the same as it’s always been, for the exception of more folk taking less pay, to at least get some gigs, just to get by until the next one comes along.
Since April, I’ve interviewed over 200 musicians and cultural performers. I’ve photographed almost 300. I’ve videoed dozens. My daily FB Live has upwards of 3,000 daily views, a platform that I also talked to and interviewed performers. I say that to say, there’s most likely no one else who have engaged with the actual members of the cultural economy and cultural communities as I have. I know firsthand what they/we/us are going through.
You’d think, with all the homegrown talent in this city and the city’s dependency on that talent to draw the millions of visitors, that being a musician would be… sorry, I digressed!
—Dr. Brice Miller • Cultural Anthropologist, Jazz Musician, Educator, CEO @ The New Orleans Music Company • http://www.thenomc.com + http://www.noladjtruck