Sunday, February 9, 2014

New repository for New Orleans' music

Photo: John McCusker, The New Orleans Advocate

The Louisiana Music Factory, an independent retailer in the business of selling CDs and vinyl recordings, most of them by New Orleans and Louisiana artists, survived even while most sellers of physical music product vanished.
The thousands of closed record stores include locations of the Tower Records and Virgin Megastore chains that once were just blocks away from the Louisiana Music Factory in the French Quarter.
Now there’s a big change in store for the Louisiana Music Factory, too. After operating in the Quarter near Canal Street for 22 years, the store closed its Decatur Street location Saturday, Feb. 1. Its first day of business at 421 Frenchmen St., just outside of the Quarter, is this Saturday, Feb. 8.
The store’s lease at 210 Decatur St. ended Dec. 31. Although that building recently was sold, the store’s new landlord didn’t want the business to leave, owner Barry Smith said.
“But this opportunity presented itself down there,” Smith explained. “And we’ve been kind of struggling in the past few years. I’m hoping this will give us a fresh start and be a better neighborhood for us.”
The new location, just below the second-story office of Offbeat, a monthly magazine devoted to New Orleans music, is more affordable, though somewhat smaller, than the previous space.
The now-closed instrument retailer, Werlein’s Music Store, the Music Factory’s former next-door neighbor on Decatur, as well as the House of Blues plus some neighboring music venues that didn’t last, had helped Smith’s business by bringing musicians and music fans to Decatur Street.
Smith’s move to Frenchmen Street again puts it in an area of multiple music venues, including Blue Nile, The Maison, d.b.a. and Snug Harbor.
“I hate to leave the House of Blues, but we’re moving to a more concentrated area of music clubs,” Smith said. “For the most part it’s all booking local music, which we specialize in. A lot of music fans go there in the evening. I’m hoping I’ll do more business.”
Smith and Louisiana Music Factory co-founder Jerry Brock opened the business in February 1992. It was Brock’s idea to create a retail space devoted to local and regional music.
The Louisiana Music Factory’s customers, Smith said, are largely tourists who visit New Orleans regularly, even multiple times a year.
“A lot of that is brought on by the Jazz and Heritage Festival,” he said. “It’s mostly tourists who have a passion for the local music. And I do have a local customer base. I’m hopeful that going down to Frenchmen Street might get me more regular local customers.”
The store’s specialty in Louisiana music enabled it survive in a business that’s mostly receded from the retail landscape.
“I credit that to helping us beat the odds,” Smith said. “Downloading and Internet competition have taken its toll on my sales in the last few years. But I manage to hang in there because of the local music, the majority of which is released on compact disc.
“If I were just a regular store that sold the Top 40 and whatever the flavor of the week is, I would have been gone a long time ago.”
Smith describes the store’s first day of business on Frenchmen Street as a soft opening. He’s opening the doors but doesn’t expect the space to be complete yet.
A grand opening for the new location, fe

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