With 2022 coming to a close, I figured it would be in good practice to reflect publicly how this first year has gone. I think it’s important that everyone consider doing this in their own lives. Taking inventory is a good step toward accountability and establishing goals. So, for the record, and in an effort to bolster transparency, here it goes…
2022 essentially began life for Neworleansmusicians.com, a website that networks and promotes Louisiana musicians for free. I launched publicly and began efforts to onboard Louisiana musicians. The number of possibilities seemed to mushroom exponentially in my mind. This is an exciting phase in the process of any new endeavor. Pure fantasy, where are all your hopes and dreams still reside protected in a bubble. And in that spirit, I was heavy on expanding features for users. I wanted to serve our independent musicians in as many ways as possible. It is within my nature to multi-task (a.k.a. ADHD). So, while site testing and refinement continued, I began interviewing musicians. I taught myself filming and editing basics, and on February 25th our Youtube Channel was born, with our first interview video being published. I also made things to where, when a member posts a video on my site’s video page, it automatically posts to this Youtube Channel. I also started a blog and published its first article on that same day, and linked the blog to our site menu. Two weeks later, I opened a donation page at buymeacoffee.com/neworleansmusic. And two weeks after that I started Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast, publishing NOM’s first podcast episode. For the next two months, I would teach myself where to source merchandise, how to build an e-commerce website, and how to create designs for apparel. In May of 2022, the e-commerce store was launched, eventually housing 112 pieces of clothing, all with original designs. This, too, would be linked in the site menu. Oh, and I created accounts on 12 music streaming platforms with 16 playlists named after genres. I began adding music from members to those playlists. All of these things required getting the word out. So, I taught myself how to create and publish advertisements in bulk.
In the background, my current programmer seemed to be lagging. Having “personal issues” to deal with meant he would be MIA for weeks at a time. And as with any new website, it had its fair share of bugs. So, I began the search for a new programmer. At any rate, between the old one and the new one, I believe I overwhelmed my programmers with so much expansion and inadvertently sacrificed functionality at some point. Technical errors begin to pop up. While I scrambled to get a hold on things site-wide, I was forced to take a look at what my life had become. Whether or not I would be able to keep pace with the demands of a podcast, a Youtube Channel, a blog, 16 Curated playlists on 12 platforms, and a networking website by myself remained to be seen. But media was the one thing in all of this that I could control. It was the one thing I could do myself. So, I felt I had no choice but to meet the demands placed upon myself. This, I decided would consist of a Youtube video every week, an article every two weeks, and a podcast every two weeks.
Halfway through the year I read The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. It explained that the best strategy to starting a business is to create a “minimum viable product”. It was then that I realized I was going about this all wrong. I had created too much too fast. But to withdraw in any form, even in-part, what existed, would in my eyes concede defeat. What already existed needed to remain and be improved upon. Shortly after the arrival of a new programmer, I halted all expansions and began to concentrate on one thing, “flawless operation”. I am still very much involved in this task.
Despite the exorbitant costs associated with NOM, I have adhered to forgoing financial opportunities here and there with the interest of putting the artist first. Instead of selling advertising slots on the Neworleansmusicians.com Podcast, I chose to recognize members of my site, one per episode, playing portions of their work and drawing from a questionnaire I sent to them. I also made graphics and included members on our Youtube videos. I avoided pitches for profit from influencer mills because I felt it muddled the integrity of the site’s purpose. And I resisted the idea of putting the whole site up for sale because I couldn’t let go of the vision; becoming THE resource for independent bands in Louisiana, for free. While preparing to write this piece, I had planned to go tally up all that I have spent creating this website and its tributaries; programming, paying for ads and promotional material, financing subscriptions to necessary services for transcription, editing, etc. But I honestly think I don’t even want to know that number. I can tell you that at this point, it has topped 20K. And this is money spent in order to DIY, because the typical corporate route is financially unattainable for a man raising a family. There are times when I feel as though I am becoming the Howard Hughes of Louisiana’s indie music scene. Whereby the pursuit of this vision is slowly consuming both me and my every resource. Yet seeing these parallels does not dissuade me from the quest. I must take a moment here to recognize something of the utmost importance. It is the way I feel. It’s the sense of accomplishment when I publish that video or that podcast. It’s the sense of camaraderie and the connection I feel with each and every one of my interview subjects. It’s the idea that these people deserve more attention than they are commonly given and that I want to be the one to depict them as human beings, not just juke boxes. And if all else were to fail, in the end, I feel as though the body of work in its wake will have accomplished that.
I also wanted to go dig up all the statistics associated with NOM in preparation for this article. But I feared that bogging one down with charts and graphs would steal light from the overall direction. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from obsessing over things of this sort, it’s this: in order to get something of meaning from your endeavor, you must put in something of meaning. My time, my energy, my hopes and my vision make up the tokens in this pot. There aren’t statistics out there that narrate this. As for the traffic to the site, to the Facebook Page, and to the store, I learned that throwing money at it conflates numbers, and honest fans will come as long as what you produce is from the heart. But to quantify things, traffic at times has seen over 800 new visitors a month. Although stifled by technical difficulties in the registration process, I was still able to onboard 67 bands and music industry professionals this year. The podcast, launched at the end of March, has cataloged 15 episodes, garnering 750 downloads in 22 countries. The Youtube Channel, started February 25th, has received 1.7K views resulting in 86 hours of watch time and 47 new subscribers. And our Facebook page grew by 431 people, and increased in reach by over 47K people. These are modest beginnings in the grand scheme of things. But with enough support from fans, I know these numbers will grow. And not only do they house works that I can say I am proud to have produced. But they have resulted in increased exposure for deserving musicians at no cost to them.
Throughout year one, there have been some highlights that truly elated me along the way. Gaining fans like Cyril Neville, Russel Batiste, and Stanton Moore was a nice surprise. Tab Benoit becoming a site member really made me proud. Enjoying a lengthy phone call from Jan Ramsey was also something I really appreciated. And I can’t mention these things without also mentioning how humbled I’ve been by gracious efforts from people like Clarinetist Ben Redwine, friend Ryan McKern, photographer Charles Dye, and metal band members Jay Gracianette and Blake Lowery. Ben became a member and began sending countless references my way, introducing me to so many people in the music industry. Ryan McKern has written for me in the past and recently volunteered to pass out some advertisements to local venues. Charles, though heavily sought after and quite busy with his own, agreed to come with me on an interview, contributing his stunning work to my articles. And both Jay and Blake have essentially taken me in as one of their own, bringing me face to face with Pat Bruders (Down) and Vinnie LaBella (Exhorder).
All of these things leave me feeling fulfilled, even if it is in my nature to never be satisfied. And honestly, I believe that as long as I continue to put forth an all-out effort to display Louisiana’s music scene and the people that comprise it, recompense will come. Subscription numbers to the podcast and the Youtube channel will eventually result in a few bucks back in the pot. And traffic to the site will yield a few more through advertisements. And who knows, I may one day get a donation from someone to the buymeacoffee page. I have enjoyed creating merchandise designs and, as the word gets out, this site as a brand could become a popular fashion. One thing is for certain… I never want to charge a musician for anything, ever. In my eyes, the talent is the draw. And I would never do anything to take away from that. If you have read this to the end, I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart. Of course, I hope that you check out one of the links within these lines. But above all else, I hope that you support the musicians of Louisiana. Streams, show tickets, album and merch purchases, even likes and follows on social media mean the world to these people. Let’s do all that we possibly can as a community to keep them in our world.