Making Music Without Breaking the Bank

Reopened Sept. 21, Tipitina’s New Orleans Music Office Co-op provides local artists with much-needed resources at a bargain basement price.
Tipitina’s Foundation new co-op manager, Joshua Miles

Known as the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans is a mecca for live music of every kind. In fact, on a typical Saturday night, WWOZ includes more than 55 local venues on its live music calendar.

But when it comes to meeting the needs of local musicians looking to create, record, promote and distribute their craft, the city’s resources leave a bit to be desired, especially for fledgling artists operating on a very limited budget.

This is why in 2003 the Tipitina’s Foundation created a Music Office Co-Op program. What started as a pilot project in New Orleans to provide a low-cost option for musicians to enjoy access to the software, space and support they need, has grown into a statewide co-op with locations in Shreveport, Alexandria and Lake Charles.

Tipitina’s New Orleans location, however, was forced to close for about a month-and-a-half this summer after it lost its manager. On Sept. 21 it reopened with new leadership — local musician and New Orleans native, Joshua Miles.

“This city sees an ongoing rotation of some of the best musicians out there,” says Miles, “but they need resources. The expense of going into a studio and recording an album and doing pre- and post-production, designing a cover, maybe starting an LLC, creating a website, doing the marketing, all of that has always been seen as being really costly. In this new technology age we can help bridge that gap — teach musicians to be more self-sufficient.”

Miles’ instrument of choice is the trumpet, but he also has seven years of experience in audio and engineering, along with studio setup. He says the co-op — located on the site of McDonogh High School at 1331 Kerlerec St.— is stocked with everything a musician could need.

“We’ve got eight rooms — two recording rooms, one rehearsal room, one media room with a green screen, a conference room where we can host workshops or musicians can hold meetings, and additional rooms for graphics and design,” he says.

For only a $10 a month membership fee (if you pay online or annually), artists also have access to an array of audio software, video editing software, tutorials and access to word processing and graphic design software, on-site technical support. The co-op also offers typical office services like printing, copying, fax, phone and high-speed internet.

Musicians can also receive free legal advice via the organization’s ELLA Project, a pro-bono music business legal assistance program designed to assist with intellectual property concerns and contracts.

The co-op is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. until 5 p.m.

“We polled our membership to find out when they would be most likely to use the co-op and those hours are what we came up with,” Miles says. “It makes sense because for musicians, evenings are typically spent doing gigs, sometimes into the early morning. By about 10:30 a.m., however, they’re typically up and going.”

Still in the early days of his new position, Miles says the focus is on getting the word out about the co-op, increasing membership, and working on ideas for workshops.

“I’ve got pages of ideas,” he says. “There’s so much we can do to help musicians — not just local musicians, but our members from New York, New Jersey, Chicago, California, and even overseas, to not only concentrate on their art, but on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur.”

The Basics

Tipitina’s Music Office Co-Op

What: Workforce development center for musicians, filmmakers and other digital media workers in Louisiana
Location: McDonogh High School campus; 1331 Kerlerec St.
Membership: $10 a month if paid online or annually
Open: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
More information:

Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.