Music Industry Education Key To NOLA Music Business

Music industry programs are de rigueur and exist in or near cities that are renowned for being centers of the music industry: New York, Nashville, Los Angeles. Multiple programs exist in all three locations (as well as other states) that can feed music businesses educated, savvy students who will take over the music industry in years to come.

Loyola University New Orleans created a Music Industry Studies (MIS) program almost 20 years ago. As anyone who knows New Orleans music is aware: music we got, but music business savvy, we don’t. The program at Loyola was designed to help fix that. Other institutes of higher learning (Delgado Community College and the University of New Orleans) have offered some classes in MIS, but nothing on the order of Loyola, which has the only college degree program locally.

I just learned this morning that John Snyder, the current head of the MIS program at Loyola resigned this morning.  Snyder ran the MIS degree program for about 15 years, and did a lot of good for Loyola’s program; let’s hope that the university recognizes the importance of its MIS program and replaces this position with someone with Snyder’s experience and dedication. Notably, many of Snyder’s MIS graduates are now in the music biz, either locally, or have started their own music businesses. We can thank Snyder and his Loyola program for a lot of this.

IMO, Loyola could really step it up a notch in educating (non-college attendee) locals on the music biz. Their Monday “Forum” sessions could be compiled and maybe structured into a DIY program—for a nominal fee—for anyone who wants basic information on how the music business works. Attendance at Forum is reportedly required for all MIS students—a smart move as the interviews that are conducted are an education in themselves. Forum also gives the MIS students the ability to meet and network with established music industry personnel, and let me tell you: as in any industry, building a network in the music business is crucial for success. Contact with those in the biz outside New Orleans is also crucial.

GNO, Inc. has—finally, thankfully—funded (via major contributions from Iberia Bank and others) a music industry impact study and a “mapping” of local music businesses. GNO, Inc. is paying the London-based entertainment industry consultant (Sound Diplomacy) $150,000 for these projects as well as for recommendations on strategies to grow our music industry. There’s also another $100,000 to implement their findings—and apparently to open a Sound Diplomacy satellite office in New Orleans. Obviously, the creation and nurturance of Music Industry Studies programs (and possibly the support of a music industry incubator) should, and I predict, will be an integral part of their recommendations.

Read this blog a year from now, and mark my words: this isn’t rocket science, people. In fact, I’m pretty positive that local people who have been involved in the music industry for years could have provided this recommendation without hiring a consultant. But whatever it takes: outside consultants add a patina of legitimacy to any report they submit because they are “objective” and supposedly have access to models that locals are presumed not to have.

Having been in this arena for over three decades, and having started in my role at OffBeat originally as an advocate for nurturing a savvy music industry, I perceive that there’s a real disconnect in educating young people—and I don’t mean just college students—on music as a profession. If I had my way, I’d work with high schools to implement programs not only on music (playing an instrument, or in a band) but on the business of music: taking care of business as a musician, and the potential for working with musicians We’d have a lot less musicians living in poverty, more people who might step up to get involved in the music business side of things, and over maybe a generation, we’d have a real thriving music industry that’s being performed, managed and promoted by people who know how to take care business. Even so, it is going to take that long, even if we do things right. Music business education is key to that goal.

In the meantime—my rant for the day being completed—have a great Jazz Fest!

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