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.