Specific areas of the US are associated with specific industries. In those places, people who work in those industries can make a lot of money. For example, Silicon Valley is known for tech. Software development is so lucrative for so many people there its driven the cost-of-living sky high. In Los Angeles, the TV and movie industry creates enormous wealth for actors, directors, and a large number of allied careers.
New Orleans is famous for its music. But, with literally one or two exceptions, you’ll have a hard time meeting a musician or anyone else in the local music business who’s getting wealthy. Why is that?
Reid Wick, Senior Membership & Project Manager at The Recording Academy – the people who own the Grammy’s – says its because when we were at the pinnacle of nationwide musical importance in the 1950’s, nobody had the foresight to develop a music business infrastructure. And we’re still paying the price for that today. How do we fix it? Reid has ideas.
It’s not like Reid or other people in the music business are sitting on their hands, doing nothing to change the status of musicians in New Orleans. Take, for example MACCNO, Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans. MACCNO was formed in 2012, spearheaded by musician Kermit Ruffins’ angry response to the city’s proposed crackdown on live music permits. The organization has been a highly visible and vocal advocate for musicians’ and other artists’ ever since. The Executive Director of MACCNO is Ethan Ellestad.
We know only too well that consensus alone doesn’t bring about change. We all agree, for example, that there should be equal pay for equal work. But women are still paid less than men. Similarly, you won’t find a single person in New Orleans who disagrees with the notion that musicians should be paid at a level commensurate with their importance as some of our most valued citizens. And yet, year after year, decade after decade, we’re still having this same conversation about musicians’ struggles to make a decent living here.
At some point this has to change. And when it does, it’s going to be because of the tireless efforts of people like Reid Wick and Ethan Ellestad.