INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL BAGNERIS
How do you feel about this sound ordinance stuff? I am not quite sure about the provisions of the noise oridinance….
[gives him some info on the rules]. But before we get to that, do you think the old ordinances even need to be updated? My experience with the culture of the city, the noise ordinance definitely needs to be overhauled. But not all sections of the city requires the same treatment as far as what’s considered noise – one person’s noise is another person’s music. You may want to have a different treatment of that area of the city which is known for entertainment. And for another area of the city that is totally residential where you don’t have any commercial, then you may want to treat that section of the city differently. So I don’t know if there ought to be any city-wide noise oridinance.
Certain clubs won’t be allowed to have amplified music… Instead of an ad hoc approach it should be a holistic approach. We should bring all the stakeholders together before you draft an ordinance. You bring in the patrons, your businesspeople, you bring in the neighbors. You have to take everyone’s attitude into consideration, and you try and map out a plan that is going to satisfy everyone who is concerned.
One solution, and it may cost the businesses a little more – first of all a reasonable decibel level that more than conversational level. Once you have that reasonable level, you talk to the business people you make sure they’re able to insulate so they can have the music, and play loud and you can’t hear it outside of the venue. We have the ability now to do that.
Well, we already have sound laws now, and they are very fair. In many cases the complainers have moved to these musical areas for the cultural amenities, and then started trying to mold them to their own residential desires. But how do you handle the longtime residents who have seen their hoods turn into entertainment districts? I am not familiar with the exact ordinance. I can only say that anything that is going to impeded or restrict or prohibit the New Orleans musicians, I would be opposed to. At the same time, if it’s a situation where people are inconvenienced…people gotta be able to sleep and get up and go to work in the morning. Kids gotta go to school, so we got to be reasonable. So what I am talking about, does the ordinance take into account everything I am talking about … what I’d like to see is everybody at the table working out a plan.
If a brass band wanted to play inside of a certain area that would be great. Maybe they need a permit maybe not, maybe there’s a time limit, maybe not. I’m not sure but all those things should be taken into account. Everyone needs to express their views…but to just randomly indicate, these are the levels and this is what we have to deal with, I have a problem with that.
When you talk about peace and quiet, it seems like people can go anywhere and get that. Whereas it’s really hard anywhere in America for musicians to find a place to play without being hassled. In the world capital of music, how are you prepared to legally treat our musicians differently? Well, we should treat our musicians differently. And I am the only candidate who is talking about building a music industry. We have lots of great raw talent but we never really take that talent and create around it the infrastructure of business. I am not talking about soundtracks or management, I am talking about publishing, distribution, marketing, that component that’s being referred to as the digital component of music. The noise ordinance might be of less importance when we start dealing with the real business of music – putting our folks into studios, and we have our people dealing with soundtracks for movies and things of that nature. We have never really helped to catapult it to the rest of the world – everyone else does that, they come here and they grab New Orleans music. But Wynton Marsalis is not here, Harry Connick is not here, and pretty soon Trombone Shorty won’t be here. All of those great musicians ought to be actually feeding into the music industry that I just described.
Why not tax credits for opening a music club, the same way they give tax credits for movies and other digital media. Instead of giving the musicians and club owners all these extra hoops to jump through, why not use tax credits to encourage the growth of our music scene? We should view it the same way we view the film industry. But in doing that we have to make sure that the live music for those clubs are going to be dealt with and not just on a one-time basis, and you say you’re a music club. We want to make sure that our musicians are being paid properly and things of that nature before you can say I’m a music club, just to get a tax credit. There better be something more than just playing CDs.
What would you say to the people who have lived near Frenchmen Street before it was a music district? If the musicians really want to make that a music district [note: it has been officially since 2004], I would find out if those residents would be interested in having their properties purchased at a fair value, and if the businesses are interested in making that a music district, maybe they should do what everybody else does and get a consortium and buy out for fair value those property owners and make it a music district. I mean they do that with any other enterprise that’s coming in…like if you have a big WalMart coming in and some properties are in the way, they buy them out. When they are expanding the airport and properties are in the way, you buy them out. If you have a music district that’s expanding, buy them out.
I mean, it already…that’s the strange thing to me is that it already is a music district. Anyone fighting against that should have started fighting long ago. But the buyout is not an idea I have heard anyone else float. I am not sure the musicians have as much money as WalMart… But the business of music, you have investors and consortiums that get together and they would do the buyout. And if clubs want to get their little piece of it, whoever has got that consortium together for the buyout, they control that land there.
What about the fact that music is not primarily a business, it is self expression? I mean, some people make it a business, but that’s not it’s intended purpose. Making a business industry is great but these laws would make it hard on even self-expression. Music is an artform. But that’s even more reason to make it a business. For example if you’re going to have tax credits, the only way you do that is if you have live music performed three or four days a week
How do you feel about closing times in New Orleans? The neighborhood groups have been big on closing times the last few years. The residential might be neighbors to a bar… I still believe that in most instances to have harmony between the two, you’re not gonna wanna close the bars at what would be unthinkable hours in New Orleans, you just make sure the clubs are insulated so that neighboring folks can sleep.