The Missing Piece

The New Orleans Music Economy initiative aims to finally create a true music industry in New Orleans.
illustration by Tony Healey
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.


Charles “Buddy” Bolden, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Prima, Sidney Bechet, Fats Domino, Dr. John, Trombone Shorty, Professor Longhair, The Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, Lil Wayne, Mahalia Jackson, Harry Connick Jr.…the list of famous New Orleans musicians just goes on and on — stretching back to include the birth of jazz, a time when the city was known as “the opera capitol of North America,” and further forward to the birth of bounce music. Festivals, second lines, jazz funerals, even just walking through the French Quarter on a random Wednesday, there’s no getting away from music in this city, and who would want to?

Music is the lifeblood of New Orleans, but that doesn’t mean it has a strong ecosystem here.

If you think of Nashville, Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles — these are not just places where musicians live and work, they’re cities that have a strong infrastructure in place to help them make a living. They have agencies, labels, plenty of studios.

Essentially, they don’t just have music, they have a music business.

Considering the hundreds of years of rich musical history in New Orleans, the birthplace of multiple music genres, it seems absurd that we don’t have this kind of infrastructure in place, but it’s true, and it’s something a new initiative from GNO, Inc. is aiming to rectify.

Announced on Jan. 24, the New Orleans Music Economy (NOME) initiative aims to bring jobs, wealth and recognition to New Orleans in a way that’s long overdue, while offering artists the chance to profit from their work like they should

“We have so many artists, so many big names that have created great works and didn’t benefit from that work because they didn’t have the proper intellectual property in place,” says Tara Hernandez, GNO, Inc. board lead on the NOME initiative.

More than just helping artists take advantage of their legal rights, NOME is focused on creating a true music ecosystem that includes marketing, legal, creative and banking professionals all knowledgeable about the specific needs of this unique industry.

Among the early investors of the initiative is IBERIABANK. In a release announcing its support of NOME, bank CEO, Daryl G. Byrd, noted that the company’s sports and entertainment banking division specializes in the unique financial needs of musicians, athletes and actors. Other supporters include The Helis Foundation, New Orleans & Co., Loyola University, Louisiana Entertainment, the Downtown Development District, NOISE Fest, New Orleans Business Alliance and the City of New Orleans.

The first step in the initiative was to hire a consultant to develop an action plan. London, Berlin and Barcelona-based firm Sound Diplomacy will examine what opportunities exist in the region, quantify the economic impact of the music industry in the Greater New Orleans region and engage with city stakeholders. The firm’s Music Strategy project is set to be completed by December of this year.

Once a plan is in place, work can begin to fill in the gaps that will hopefully ensure our incredible musicians don’t have to leave home to get things done.

“For example, PJ Morton [keyboardist with the band Maroon 5] is moving back home here and he still has to go to Atlanta to access some of the resources he needs,” adds Hernandez. “That shouldn’t be the case. We need to have those resources here.”