To help support local gig and cultural economy workers impacted by COVID-19, the New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), French Quarter Festivals, Inc. (FQFI) and WWL-TV will host "Live from the Porch," a virtual music event on Saturday, April 4, beginning at 4 p.m.
The event will feature a series of live performances from well-known local musicians, including Shamarr Allen, Robin Barnes and Pat Casey, Susan Cowsill, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, DJ Raj Smoove and more, during a social media broadcast accessible on both Facebook and Instagram via the FQFI and NOLABA pages.
NOLABA committed the first $100,000 to initiate the Gig Economy Relief Fund, with the goal of increasing its assets to a minimum of $500,000. Within its first week, the fund more than doubled in contributions, with major donations from Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, Baptist Community Ministries, Gulf Coast Bank, and more. With these generous donations from the local business community, as well as hundreds of smaller donations from engaged New Orleanians, the fund has since expanded to over $380,000.
With Live from the Porch, event organizers are hoping to raise additional resources for the relief fund, which has received over 1,200 applications as of March 30. In addition, the event will provide critical income for participating musicians, many of whom have been out of work due to recent closures and cancellations, as well as some much-needed joy and togetherness for residents during the "stay at home" mandate.
"We're incredibly excited for this event, which will provide a little bit of light during this unprecedented period," said NOLABA President & CEO Quentin Messer, Jr. "The generosity we've seen in support of this relief fund has been truly overwhelming and indicative of the compassion, strength and resiliency of the New Orleans community. We're encouraging everyone to tune in to Live from the Porch to enjoy quality entertainment from some of our city's most beloved musicians. Listen in and contribute to assist even more of our local gig workers as we continue to address and overcome the challenges of COVID-19 together."
Research conducted in 2017 shows gig economy workers represent nearly 10% of the workforce in Orleans Parish, including rideshare drivers, musicians, arena workers, freelancers, and festival production staff, to name a few. In a city like New Orleans, internationally-known and loved for its large-scale festivals and events, many of these workers depend on the cultural calendar for reliable income. With so many of these celebrations on hold or canceled, especially during such a prime time in the year, this community stands to lose out on millions of dollars of potential income.
"The non-profit FQFI is proud to support this event," said Emily Madero, President and CEO of French Quarter Festivals, Inc. "The decision to postpone French Quarter Festival was a heavy one, particularly because of the impact we knew it would have on the artists, musicians, and hospitality workers that count on our event for their livelihood. Live from the Porch is aligned with our mission to showcase local talent and support the economic well-being of the community. The gig economy relief fund will provide much-needed resources to those on the front lines of our cultural economy."
Live from the Porch will showcase some of New Orleans' most iconic musical talents. Shamarr Allen has influences in jazz, hip-hop, rock, funk rhythms, blues and country. With a scintillating and unique sound, look, and exemplary talents, Shamarr Allen transcends musical boundaries. Singer Robin Barnes and husband Pat Casey are two of the city of New Orleans' biggest ambassadors. Barnes' voice is as powerful with a whisper as it is with a scream and has given the artist the official distinction of the "Songbird of New Orleans." Susan Cowsill's signature sound stems from '60s pop roots with seasonings of Louisiana groove, country, and rock. The youngest member of Louisiana's legendary Cowsill family, Cowsill will be joined by her husband Russ Broussard for Live from the Porch.
Walter "Wolfman" Washington has been an icon on the New Orleans music scene for decades. Equally adept in virtually any genre, Washington stands out for his unique style and uncommon grace as a guitarist, bandleader and vocalist. Premiere New Orleans area DJ Raj Smoove, referred to as "The Greatest DJ in the World" by Lil Wayne, is well-known for his ability to draw crowds of any age or demographic with his unique, genre-less fluidity and audacious DJ style. Over the course of his 30-year career, he's performed at countless high-profile events such as NBA All-Star Weekend, Essence Music Festival, New Orleans Jazz And Heritage Festival, and the National Urban League Conference where he deejayed for Stevie Wonder.
"Throughout this crisis, we have witnessed first-hand the incredible strain and burden that COVID-19 has placed upon our local artists and gig workers," said President & General Manager of WWL-TV Tod Smith. "We're so happy and proud to be partnering with such amazing organizations and musicians to put on this event, and hopefully make a real difference for our friends and neighbors during these uncertain times."
Musicians participating in Live From the Porch are being compensated for their performances, with fees underwritten by an innovative group of local entrepreneurs, known as Krewe de Nieux.
"Krewe de Nieux is a group of New Orleans' leading entrepreneurs who are constantly thinking about ways to positively impact our community," said Brent McCrossen, Managing Director at Revelry StartUp Studio, founder of tech companies Audiosocket and LIDCORE, and member of Krewe de Nieux. "Beyond caring for each other, our staff, and our customers we understand the importance of giving back to our community. We're thrilled to partner with New Orleans Business Alliance and French Quarter Festivals, Inc., and are honored to support the community during this trying time."
For more information or to donate to the Gig Economy Workers Relief Fund, please visit nolaba.org/relief-fund.