New Orleans Live Music Industry Faces Uphill Path

New Orleans Live Music Industry Faces Uphill Path

Supporters Have Several Options for Helping

The coronavirus pandemic isn’t easy for anyone, but in New Orleans — where so much of the culture revolves around parades, festivals, and live music — it’s hitting especially hard. Like gyms, restaurants, and casinos, the bars that support the city’s live music scene closed in the early days of the stay-at-home order, and reopened during Phase 2. But, unlike those other businesses, the bars are now required to close again. By the same token, New Orleans’ music venues will likely be among the last businesses to reopen. And the horn-driven New Orleans sound will be slow to return, due to the nature of the instruments.

“Unlike Southwest Louisiana where there’s a lot of guitars and basses, here we have trumpets and saxophones that spray droplets in the air,” musician David Torkanowsky told WWL-TV. “We have singers that spray droplets in the air. Our clubs in New Orleans, specifically are more Petri dishes than they are entertainment venues.”

So sadly, large and small concerts are a no-go for now. But that doesn’t mean you can’t support the Crescent City’s network of musicians, venues, and promoters. Keep reading for more information about how you can support local music.

Phase 2 Guidelines Amended

When it comes to live music venues reopening, there’s been a lot of “take one step forward, then two steps back” in New Orleans. At no point during the phased reopening have music venues been allowed to operate. When Phase 2 started June 13, bars weren’t allowed to host live music indoors either, though they could otherwise operate at 25 percent capacity. Facing backlash from underemployed musicians, the state allowed bars and restaurants to apply to host live music, provided they implemented safety measures such as barriers and HVAC systems and enforced social distancing. In Orleans Parish, live entertainment was only in outdoor settings with an event permit.

On June 26, officials banned live indoor music again. Every bar or restaurant that had applied to host live music was denied. That ban remains in place — and following a surge in cases and amended Phase 2 restrictions, bars statewide are shuttered until July 24 at the soonest. Until then, we’re going to have to be happy with piano performances from the back of a truck.

How Venues Are Responding

Venue owners and promoters admit that the struggle is real. Their businesses may or may not stay afloat, but they acknowledge these precautions are necessary to slow the spread of the disease and save lives. According to NPR, 90 percent of clubs and festivals could close forever within the next few months if they don’t receive a bailout.

The National Independent Venue Association has mobilized to #saveourstages by making it easy for music fans to email senators and representatives asking them to support the RESTART Act, which would provide funds for music venues. Local venues including Gasa Gasa, DBA, and Howlin’ Wolf have voiced their support for the cause on social media. Meanwhile, the FQFI, which produces French Quarter Fest, Satchmo Summerfest, and a holiday concert series, has an ongoing fundraiser. The Allways Lounge streams live swing music every Sunday. Visit your favorite club’s website to see what’s in the works — chances are, it has a benefit in the works, too.

Consider the Source

Of course, music venues are nothing without the musicians who perform within their walls. The best way to support them is with a virtual tip jar. Follow your favorite musicians on social media, attend their live-streaming concerts and tip via Venmo (or whatever their preferred method may be).

If your favorite band isn’t doing online concerts, there’s another time-tested way to support them: Buy their music. We’re proud to offer records, LPs, CDs, and merch from local musicians, available for sale or trade. And if you are a musician yourself? Check out Preservation Hall’s list of COVID resources, grants, housing support, and more — and thank you for sharing your gifts. We can’t wait to come out to support you in person, whenever that may be.

Mushroom New Orleans is open every day from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Capacity will be limited to six people at a time, and you must bring your own mask. Curbside pickup is available and encouraged. Please call (504) 866-6065 to place an order for curbside pickup or to get more information about coming to the store. See you soon!

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