(I used to be a big Allen Toussaint fan. I still think Fats Domino is the shit. Thankfully they're okay. But what about all of the others?)
Music industry in disarray after the storm
By Bill Werde Sat Sep 3,11:32 AM ET
NEW YORK (Billboard) - As flood waters rose in the days after Hurricane Katrina's August 29 rampage through New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, so too did concern for the myriad musicians, business associates, friends and family in the region.
The scope of the loss and tragedy Katrina caused is clear: It will be years before a locale renowned for its entertainment industry is back to business as usual -- if it ever is again.
For the music industry, the top priority became tracking down the missing. Reports began to surface that Antoine "Fats" Domino, songwriter Allen Toussaint (who penned Patti LaBelle's hit "Lady Marmalade") and others had not been heard from since Katrina touched down. On Friday (September 2), Domino, the 76-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member, and his family were reported safe, having been rescued by boat from floodwaters near their New Orleans home.
The Neville Brothers, long associated with New Orleans, were fine, but Charles Neville could not locate his three daughters.
But it was not just well-known musicians who were missing or displaced. The Gulf Coast, and in particular the New Orleans region, is also home to a thriving community of local musicians who make a living playing jazz, zydeco and Cajun music, especially for tourists.
"I just can't get ahold of anyone," said Jonno Frishberg, a 45-year-old fiddler who earns his livelihood playing Cajun music gigs. "You're talking about a whole community of musicians like me, with no unemployment insurance and no way to make a living." Frishberg and his wife and two children are all safe. "If I didn't have kids, I'd be looking to head far away from here," he says. "I'll still have to go on the road to make a living. I'm just looking for a way to feed my family."
On Wednesday evening (August 31) retail music chains were still scrambling to learn of their employees' well-being, while wholesalers said they had not been able to get through to check on their independent accounts.
"We are in contact with our management team there, but we are still trying to track down our employees," Tower Records senior VP of operations Bill Duffy said. "We have heard from about half of them."
Phone calls to independent stores in New Orleans; Biloxi, Miss.; and Mobile, Ala., either went unanswered or offered only a busy signal.
"We have been unable to get through to any stores in New Orleans," Super D indie sales manager Mark Grindle reported. "We don't know how they are."
As for the retail locations themselves, executives contacted by Billboard were assuming the worst: that the stores were flooded, with massive damage to merchandise.
The shape of live entertainment in the region will be affected for months, if not permanently.
Among the large venues in the region hit by Katrina are the Superdome, New Orleans Arena and Keifer UNO Lakefront Arena in New Orleans; the Cajundome in Lafayette, La.; the RiverCenter in Baton Rouge, La.; the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi; the Mitchell Center and Mobile Civic Center in Mobile, Ala.; the Pensacola (Fla.) Civic Center; and the entire Mississippi Gulf Coast casino market.
Home to dozens of thriving music venues, New Orleans is also home to promoters Beaver Productions and Superfly Presents, as well as the site of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and the flagship House of Blues club. "We believe everyone is safe," HOB's Kevin Morrow said; as of Wednesday, his club was still dry. "We are looking to relocate some people until we can figure out how long it will be till we can start operations again," Morrow said.
"It's going to be a long road," said Don Fox, president of Beaver Productions. "There won't be any concerts in New Orleans for a while, at least three to six months."
Katrina made a substantial impact on the radio business in and around the Gulf Coast as well. Entercom closed two of its four stations in the area and received assistance from competitor Clear Channel, which used a helicopter to help evacuate Entercom employees from downtown New Orleans.
Broadcasters Clear Channel, Entercom, Citadel, Apex, and the Louisiana State Network have partnered to form the United Radio Broadcasters of New Orleans. Clear Channel VP of news/talk programming Gabe Hobbs and Entercom VP news/talk Ken Beck combined their staff to produce news that will be broadcast over nine surviving radio stations in the stricken
Many in the music industry not directly affected by the hurricane set about to assist the victims. Some of the higher-profile efforts included a September 12 Dave Matthews benefit concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver; a September 10 special on MTV, VH1 and CMT; and "A Concert for Hurricane Relief," an hour-long TV special scheduled that aired Friday (September 2) on NBC, MSNBC and CNBC, featuring Tim McGraw, Harry Connick Jr., Wynton Marsalis and others. "Our city will come back, but it will take the entire country," Marsalis said. "When you take New Orleans from America, our soul equation goes down."
Marsalis and special guests will highlight the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Concert, to take place September 17 at Rose Theater in New York. The event will be recorded by Jazz at Lincoln Center. A CD from the event will be released by Blue Note Records with all profits going to relief funds.
Putumayo World Music is also donating proceeds from the sale of two records, "New Orleans," and "Mississippi Blues," to relief efforts, through year's end.
In the digital realm, Napster began selling a "Download to Donate" compilation September 1, with profits going to the American Red Cross. CD Baby, where thousands of independent artists sell their music online, set up a special page to sell CDs from those who wanted their profits to go to the Red Cross.
And on radio, Clear Channel stations are airing PSAs directing listeners to stormaid.com, where they can make donations to the American Red Cross. In addition, Clear Channel Entertainment is organizing benefit concerts and collection drives.
In New York, the rapper Juvenile broke down at a Thursday (September 1) press conference announcing a September 9 telethon on BET. Juvenile lost his house in New Orleans and had yet to locate certain family members. The clothes he wore had to be purchased by his publicist, and his label, Atlantic, had been wiring money to his family, who lost everything in the floods. "Like the effort we put toward war and the tsunami," a red-eyed Juvenile said, "We need to put forth the same effort to saving our own country."
Master P, rapper and head of the label No Limit, was also at the press conference, and also lost a home. Master P launched the organization Team Rescue (teamrescueone.com) to get supplies to those left in New Orleans.
And while the various factions of the robust New Orleans hip-hop scenes had been competitive in the past, Master P said he plans to do an album and tour with members of the Cash Money label and Juvenile. "It ain't about No Limit or Cash Money," Master P said. "It's about New Orleans. We'll do whatever we have to do for our people."