Back to Articles
RIFFING ON THE TRADITION #23: French Quarter Festival
OK, Cats. French Quarter Festival is on; there’s no turning back.
Some of you were already out there Thursday, and told me it could go either way. Regardless, don’t let any mixed feelings you have cause you to miss opportunities, because at the end of the day, FQF is the biggest music festival for New Orleans musicians.
Yes, I know. It was a bit of a blow last November when that Times Picayune article divulged how much most of us make for performing at the festival. But don’t worry. That won’t necessarily compromise our leverage for other work.
See, it’s a little different than when listeners hear you for free and presume that you’re being paid sufficiently by the venue. Even when that’s not the case, your secret can remain safe, provided you refrain from maniacally waving a tip bucket in front of the crowd.
However, now that the cat’s out of the bag and people can calculate that a FQF show six-days-a-week, year-round would provide less than the median income in Louisiana, we need a different strategy.
We need to remind the public that French Quarter Festival is our gift to the city, and it isn’t about the money. We support the festival because it’s a great opportunity to show locals and tourists alike the magic of the French Quarter and the value of what we do. We do it to support the community, safeguard our traditions, and celebrate our culture.
Don’t listen to the press flying around about how much the festival has grown, how much business it generates for the city and how there’s, like, more than half-a-million attendees ...
Focus! Keep your eye on the prize. You know damn well, since it’s a free festival, that there’s no way to accurately calculate these things anyway. FQF insists that it's not flush with money, despite the impression it creates to attract sponsors.
So what about all those sponsors, and the publicized success of the highly touted musician sponsorship program?
Well, look around. Producing FQF is a huge endeavor. Besides, it was our Musician’s Union who set the pay scale, a holdover from sponsorship by the now-defunct Music Performance Trust Fund. Yes, there’s been agreement that things can be discussed for 2013, but for now, we and the festival have gone along with it, and as professionals, we can’t let our ambivalence affect the public’s experience.
On that note, people don’t need to hear our grumbling about how difficult it is to get around to the different stages; they don’t need to know what we may really think about the quality of the sound; and they definitely don't need to know that you were only provided one parking pass for your entire band.
Everybody’s trying. Be kind to the staff and volunteers and be obsequious to your fans. Smile generously and don’t miss any opportunities to tell them about your evening shows, sell CDs, or get email contacts so fans can continue to follow you.
As I explained in my column from a couple weeks ago, our supporters are here in inspiring numbers to commune and experience OUR city through OUR music. Be positive and show your passion and pride. ...
While you're at it, stay hydrated, bring sunscreen, wear comfortable shoes, and for God’s sake stay upwind of the buskers.
A weekly dialogue about the music industry and issues pertaining to the cultural workforce.