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Governor Jindal and Small Business Development

Governor Jindal and Small Business Development

We are all familiar with the Governor's commitment to developing the business community in Louisiana. His determination to bring about ethical reform in all areas of government and civic life have set a standard in the nation and built a necessary foundation for this business development.

The Governor's recent comments about the arts and arts funding are depressing to some but not to me. Because to me they indicate a change of attitude that is much needed in the music and arts communities. It is time to depend less on grants and donations and more on our selves and on our native entrepreneurial abilities as they pertain to our native talent.

We need the Governor's head, not his heart. We don't want him to believe, we want him to listen and consider, and we want his powerful intellect to be directed to the immediate opportunities that reside in the untapped, native talent of the citizens of his state.

What I mean is this: musicians create wealth out of the thin air of human imagination when write a song, perform that song, or record that song. Authors as well and anyone else whose creative works are animated by the copyright statutes do the same. When I write down the words or the melody to a song, it is copyrighted, automatically, and it's not the protection that is important, it is the RIGHTS that are important.

The very act of writing down the original song creates the exclusive right to copy it and to distribute it, and even the exclusive right to control the public performance of it. No one can use it, translate it, or broadcast it on the Internet, in Walmart, on the radio, or in a club without my permission. These rights, along with their exceptions, create wealth and jobs.

These rights make recording companies, publishing companies, ASCAP and BMI, and all of the ancillary businesses, such as recording studios and CD plants, all members of the extended family of the song. The whole edifice is built on the songwriter. Culture becomes infrastructure.

So, musicians are a walking bundle of rights that can be monetized. The very act of doing what they do makes them a business. It is time that they run their businesses more like businesses, and if they can't, find someone who can. But even then, there is no way for an artist or a musician to avoid the fact that they are a business and that their only choice is whether they are going to be good at it or not, make money or not.

Talent, it has been said, is our state's greatest natural resource. It is renewable, it is "green", it requires only the infrastructure of the public school system, but otherwise it is not capital intensive. It requires minimal investment in the form of arts programs in the public schools. This is not a luxury, it is an economic necessity. The legislature has passed legislation that mandates minimal music and arts instruction but this mandate remains unfunded.

We should not confuse our love for music and art with some sort of warm and fuzzy, constantly demanding luxury. It is, on the other side of it, cold hard economic development. If we could harness 30% of the talent in this state we could create an economic engine that would create jobs, value, and wealth out of the creative imagination of our children and of our friends. We call this the Cultural Economy in this state, and that is no slogan. That is a fact. The creative community of this country, broadly defined creates a third of our GDP. Entertainment is still this country's number one export. Arts = business! Music has defined Louisiana. Louis Armstrong could only have come from New Orleans.

In addition to the musician, the artist, the author and the playwright, we need to immediately take steps to empower the music and entertainment entrepreneurs, the people who love marketing and design, sales and broadcast, producing and engineering, law and finance, management and business, as much as musicians love playing their instruments. It is THOSE people, all of those business school graduates, those law school graduates that this state raises up year after year, who could run these companies to market and distribute this endless natural resource of intellectual property. We need to keep a higher percentage of those people in the state. They are leaving the place they love because they find jobs elsewhere.

That should be our focus, the government's focus, and, as far as I'm concerned, the purpose of arts funders. It is not enough to give a musician rent money to write a song. You can give her money if you want. But if you want to help artists create sustainable careers, give them some business advice, some legal advice, give them business incubators and the tools to compete, and tell them how copyright law makes them producers of wealth with every breath they take.

Fund small business development in arts, entertainment, and the digital economy if you want to fund something. Fund education in the arts and in the business of the arts if you want to fund something. Fund something that has resonance, that keeps on giving, that creates start-ups by the thousands, that builds careers, that inspires people, that harnesses the power that absolute belief can generate. The people we're talking about are already motivated, intelligent, hardworking and dedicated people. Artists are NATURALLY entrepreneurial and are capable of creating an endless stream of "product" based only on their own talent. They are businesses on the hoof.

Fund workforce development AND small business development in the entertainment and music fields. This is not an investment that will take years to pay out. The state is filled with musicians, authors, and others with thousands of songs and creative works with thousands of potential revenue streams. This requires no plants be built, it has no negative impact on the environment, and there is no significant capital expense. This is SMART investing. It uses tax incentives to stimulate investment in industries where it's not just about the jobs, it's about the jobs that the jobs create. It makes the best of an existing reality and it projects an incredible return on a minimal investment.

A down payment could be a change in attitude. It is the artist and musician who creates the massive and sprawling entertainment world, and it just so happens that we have those people on every corner, in every classroom, and in every performance facility in this state. Tax incentives alone could sustain and kick-start this powerful new industry. We should be aggressive in their use. It's not about the money we don't collect, it's about the money that we will collect.

The workforce development programs and the tax incentives that are in place should be broadened and extended. And we need to be creative and innovative in their application and development. But we have the foundation and that's such a great advantage. The music and entertainment worlds aren't just businesses, they are communities of caring and innovative people. What better workforce than one that is inspired by their own beliefs? Lead this powerful army, Governor, towards our shared goals, and what we disagree about will not matter as much as what we agree on: small business development.

I know you're taking some heat, Governor, but if you're looking for a bright side it's that many of the citizens of your state are incipient businesses, poised to stimulate the economy of this state, not to mention its culture and tourism. We can no longer depend on the old sources of revenue and we do not want to depend on the generosity of strangers.

If you can't think of it as investing in the arts for arts sake, then think about it as small business development. Seen in that light, investing in the arts is the best economic stimulation course you could take. And taking it also puts you on the high ground of championing small business development, the creative power of your citizens, and the necessity of creative education to raise well-rounded, creatively inspired individuals capable of endless innovation (you need to water the crops, Governor).

We are fully engaged in the digital economy at this point and these are the growth industries of the future. We can help you lead the way to a dominant position in this new economy, Governor. Help us help our artists and our fellow citizens monetize their passion. Passion moves mountains. Help us replenish this natural resource through education and a dedication to creative thinking as well as critical thinking in our public schools.

Help us light up this state in celebration of self-sufficiency and the marriage of art and commerce. Help us create this economic engine that is fueled by the creative work or our citizens and by the digital economy, an economy that will help those citizens create wealth for themselves, employment for others, and cultural value for our society as a whole. That's not just support for the arts and for arts education, that is support for small business development and the power of individuals to make a difference in this world.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and I welcome your comments.

John Snyder

PS Stick with us, Governor, and maybe you'll write a song with the economic impact of "You Are My Sunshine" like your esteemed predecessor Governor Jimmy Davis. That's a billion dollar song, Governor, and we have more where that came from.

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Published: 03/01/2009