Gentrification Kills Music

smallslingerlogoI see an unhappy pattern in NOLA that I witnessed up close in San Francisco during one of it’s many gentrification “booms.”

In the relatively, economically dead 70’s in SF, you could make a living playing music; clubs paid guarantees, you could afford to live, and my neighborhood was a “slum” — albeit not nearly as violent as it became after crack/meth took root. The more prosperity began rearing it’s ugly head in the ’80s the worse it got for musicians and pay. One club I performed at in the ’70s getting a $1,500 Saturday night guarantee had by the late ’80s gone to no guarantee and a tip jar, the slum became a hipster enclave, and the musicians all either had to live stacked like cord wood or move to Oakland.

Fast forward to NOLA…

Many wonder what will happen to long held traditions, such as the "Second Line" if gentrification has its way.

Many wonder what will happen to long held traditions, such as the “Second Line” if gentrification has its way.

In my 2 years (working in Nola) the relentless gentrification and “growth” is doing essentially the same thing, and the last town in America that has a “vocationally” self sufficient climate for musicians appears to be coming apart at the seams. Weaker guarantees, more amateurs willing to play for free, less respect, et cetera, rents skyrocketing: where’s the Oakland? In Chalmette? (I’m in Arabi…) Perhaps Metairie?

I suppose the logic, that greater prosperity should mean more for all, isn’t logic at all. And like so many other sectors of the economy, musicians and service industry folks — in general — are getting swallowed up by the wealth consolidation boom that has essentially destroyed the middle class and is driving a huge wedge into our increasingly fractured society.

So to paraphrase the Beach Boys in the ’60s, it’s apparently going be “Serfin’ in the USA” unless somehow the worm turns.

Any (tH)Oughts?

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