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RIFFING ON THE TRADITION #15: High Hopes
For New Orleans musicians who don’t know about the Tipitina’s Music Co-op, I want to briefly talk about the program and the valuable services that are available for a paltry $15 membership fee. After attending a recent workshop hosted by the Co-op about social media-based marketing, I scheduled a visit with Mark Fowler, the manager of the New Orleans location (there are also offices in Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Lafayette).
Located on the ground level of the Fountainbleau Storage complex, once the site of the Fountainbleau Hotel, the Co-op is a cross between an office and an Internet café. On the morning of my visit, there were already several musicians working at some of the nine computer stations. At the Co-op, musicians can work on their websites, edit music and videos, design posters, flyers or CD covers, or just check email and organize their schedule.
Once a gigging musician himself, Mark now prefers to make music on his own terms and not depend on it for a living. His firsthand knowledge about the concerns of musicians and experience with graphic design and music and video editing make him the ideal person to help musicians use the Co-op’s resources.
We talked in a comfortable meeting room that can also serve as an isolation room for the organization's recording studio and editing facility. Mark reminded me that the Co-op opened its doors in the fall of 2003, and that he has been with it since 2004.
For Mark, the most important facet of the Co-op, added months before the failure of the federal levees after Hurricane Katrina, is the Entertainment Law Legal Assistance program (ELLA). This partnership with the Arts Council and Tulane’s Law School, headed by entertainment law professional Ashlye Keaton, connects musicians to pro-bono legal service.
“It’s critical to one’s survival as an artist,” Mark explained, “to have all that legal stuff taken care of up front, because if you don’t, your opportunity for being ripped off or exploited are unlimited.”
Imagine, $15 for legal advice on contracts or protecting intellectual property!
After Katrina, the Co-op functioned more as a community center, connecting musicians to relief and assistance resources. Mark also coordinated donations to another Tipitina’s Foundation program, Instruments a Comin’, that not only helped put instruments back in the hands of working musicians but also offered them to decimated school music programs.
National and international visibility helped the Co-op expand, but the shift in the economic climate a couple of years later made fund-raising more difficult and the focus returned to putting fundamental business tools into the hands of musicians and offering service at every level.
This recognition of the varied nature of what musicians need is the strength of the Co-op. Mark believes that experience is what helps people clarify their vision and success for him is helping musicians get closer to achieving their goals.
Mark told me that with his connections and breadth of knowledge of the current music industry tools, he feels that he best serves the community working on a one-on-one basis and by trying to keep the Co-op’s resources up-to-date. He is skilled at helping musicians translate their vision into clear steps, but also acknowledges that fundamentally it’s up to the individual.
“When people come in, I try to help them do what they want to do, and it’s up to them to do it or not do it.”
The Tipitina’s Music Co-op is located at 4040 Tulane Ave. Mark Fowler can be reached there from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 504.891.0580.
A weekly dialogue about the music industry and issues pertaining to the cultural workforce.