Making NOLA Music

The New Orleans and Gulf Coast concert industries were rocked by Hurricane Katrina last August, but many venues appear to be well on the way to recovery.

The Louisiana Superdome, which was an epicenter of Katrina’s wrath, is set to open in September. The New Orleans Arena opened March 4th. Lafayette, La.’s Cajundome has been open since January 6th. New Orleans’ House of Blues was one of the first venues to reopen following the hurricane, and was fully operational by December.

But being open and being successful are two different things. Success requires agents and artists to put a little faith in the region’s ability to produce an audience.

Louisiana Superdome and New Orleans Arena GM Glenn Menard told Pollstar the New Orleans population is alive and well.

“We still have people displaced from New Orleans but many people have just been displaced 10 or 20 miles away and not out of the region totally. The fact is that many people still live in the suburbs in the surrounding counties,” Menard said. “Those places are booming.”

Cajundome GM Greg Davis told Pollstar the reopening of New Orleans venues will directly affect Lafayette – in a positive way. As Gulf Coast venues come back online, touring artists will have more reasons to make stops in the region’s various markets.

“Usually concerts would come this far south and pick up not just the Cajundome, but other venues that run along I-10, and because of Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Katrina, that was undermined,” Davis said.

“A lot of times it’s about routing. If they are too far of a distance away, that could affect their decision to come this far south. At least by coming this far south, now they have an option of going into New Orleans, and then they can come to Lafayette.”

House of Blues spokeswoman Liz Smith told Pollstar the New Orleans venue is rebounding well and seeing a resurgence in business due to national and local acts willing to route their tours through New Orleans.

But the venues have had hits and misses with recent shows.

Davis said an August 28th Nickelback date at the Cajundome was a success. “It sold out, and that’s on a Monday night,” he said.

An August 29th Hurricane Katrina anniversary concert at the New Orleans Arena featuring Stevie Wonder, Dr. John and Yolanda Adams called for more than 10,000 seats but was cut back to 6,000 facing slow sales.

Menard said he had two explanations for the disappointing outcome.

“Number one, it was priced pretty aggressively, and number two, I think that it just turns out that many people wanted to spend [time] in reflection about their experience in the last year.”

In contrast, the arena had three sold-out concerts in the last two months – Tim McGraw / Faith Hill, Kenny Chesney, and Maze featuring Frankie Beverly.

The industry is recovering, and venue owners remain hopeful.

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls for availability,” Menard said. “I think that the ticket sales that have been displayed have given the artists and their agents some confidence that there are people here for the right act at the right price. So far we’ve had a number of successes that people probably didn’t anticipate, but we were confident that the ticket buyer was here.”

– Dana Parker-McClain