Too many folks in economic development overemphasize recruiting. At a time when most admit that Louisiana’s greatest export is our smart, talented, innovative people, highly paid government “leaders” continue to believe they can recruit outsiders to save us.
When I was at the Louisiana Music Commission, we used to joke that to economic development people an expert was someone from out of town carrying a briefcase. Nobody, it seemed, wanted to hear what “we” all have to say. Only the “experts” seemed to know up from down. Though we tried at every opportunity to bring an appreciation for indigenous talent to economic development, and tried our best to be a part of all aspects of the department, nobody wanted to hear anything from us unless it was about music; and, all-to-often only if it involved access to backstage passes.
I recently met with an important person from Louisiana Economic Development who believed that the music director needed to be “working the phones and recruiting.” I said that Louisiana’s music industry can’t recruit its way to success–unless someone has a line on Steve Jobs. I don’t know if I made my point; but I know it’s true. Unfortunately, the folks in charge of music at the state level just don’t get it and remain overwhelmed by the demands of the film industry. Music is still being taken for granted, and the potential of the state to be helpful continues to be untapped.
Our unique music resources, it seems, are still perceived as lacking only what outsiders can bring to it. Well, as far as I (and I’m sure most musicians seeking to make a living) am concerned, the main thing outsiders can bring to our music is their appreciation and their money. And if anyone wants to move their booking or management company here, I’m sure there are incentives that can be utilized. No doubt music could use some help. But what the state is (or rather isn’t) doing is about as useful as a one person sailboat with no rudder on a landlocked pond with no wind or even a paddle.
There are no miracle workers in the music industry anymore. There are no simple solutions to the difficulties of being a musician. The era of the music moguls is long over. And legendary music mogul Clive Davis lost his job (again) this week. Blame whatever you want for the demise of the industry: downloads, supply & demand, competition from video games, all of the above. Whatever you want to call it, the international music industry has changed and the state doesn’t get it. Meanwhile, Louisiana continues to produce some of the world’s best and most interesting music.
But don’t expect the state to fix things anytime soon. Instead of building upon the more than a decade of work that Chairman Ellis Marsalis fostered, the current folks at the LMC continue on their “rebuilding” path by starting from scratch and proceeding at a snail’s pace.
I also learned that nobody at the state’s entertainment office has access to any of the voluminous paperwork we generated in our 13+ years of running the Louisiana Music Commission. The people in charge don’t even know where the ring binders are that hold the reports, plans and the printed version of the (defunct) website. So, again, here is the comprehensive report covering 1992 to 2003, a summary version (bullet text and easy to read) and our last Strategic Plan. And of course anyone can view the old website by visiting Archive.org and typing “louisianamusic.org” into the Internet Wayback Machine.
I know I’m boring some of you with this stuff. But the fact remains that you can’t just erase what we did; and, I won’t let the opinions of openly hostile, manipulative people be the only version of history. I know what I did and I know what we did. And it’s far more than anyone is doing now.
The State of Louisiana continues to neglect its responsibility to nurture our precious music legacy. Our musicians deserve better.
Follow this link to get the latest information on former film office director and co-saboteur of the Louisiana Music Commission, Mark Smith. According to the Times-Picayune Smith’s sentencing has been delayed, evidently because he’s cooperating. Though I don’t wish him any more misery than Allah desires (he’s Muslim), he and his cohorts were caught with their hands in the public cookie jar and prosecuted. And soon enough, they will face the music, take their medicine and do whatever time a judge decides. Just the rules of the game they played.
On Monday, March 17 I started a new job as the Crescent City Area Housing Agent at the LSU AgCenter. I’m going to be responsible for educational outreach to consumers, builders and others seeking to rebuild safer, smarter and more sustainably. It’s not a clearly defined role and it crosses into many areas such as storm resistance, energy efficiency and sustainability. Since I’m a longtime advocate for better building and am actively involved in helping bring sustainable building resources to the area; and, since I finally passed the Home Energy Rater Systems (HERS) test (thanks to Southface Energy Institute), am a licensed real estate agent and have a strong background in communications, the folks at the AgCenter tapped me to find ways to reach and assist people in a multi-parish area. It’s a big job.
I’m just getting started learning about all the many services and programs at the LSU AgCenter. One of the primary sources for me will be the Louisiana House (check out the site, its a great resource for Louisiana-specific building research and information to help you save energy and build smarter), a project of the AgCenter.
It’s a fun place to work and I know I’m going to be able to make a difference as a partner in the rebuilding of the area. Watch this space for updates.