In this week's My Spilt Milk Podcast, Alex Rawls and the People Say Project's Brian Boyles talk about the the impact of festivals as the hub of New Orleans' economy.

79rs gang's jermaine bossier photo by alex rawls for my spilt milk
Jermaine Bossier of 79rs Gang at Jazz Fest 2017, by Alex Rawls

According to a 2015 infographic published by New Orleans Online:

To many people, New Orleans is considered the “Festival Capital of the World.” And with such a rich history of music, food, and culture–plus the fantastic year-round weather–it is easy to see why. There are approximately 130 festivals in New Orleans each year, which equates to roughly one festival every three days. Not surprisingly, New Orleans was deemed “Best City in America for festivals” by Travel + Leisure.  

Is that kind of festival density healthy for New Orleans’ economy? The graphic claims that those festivals had a $960 million economic impact, which would seem like an unqualified “yes,” but those numbers rely a lot on how they’re calculated. And if the city is dedicating its time, energy and resources to the festival industry, what loses out in the process? And is it possible to get too much of a good thing? Can New Orleans support more than 100 festivals a year? A few had tough outings last year—does that mean New Orleans is festival’ed out, or is something else affecting attendance? 

I recently talked about festival business with Brian Boyles, Vice President of Content for Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. He co-founded the People Say Project, which examines the intersection of culture and money, and in his book New Orleans Boom and Blackout, he followed the money as New Orleans' city leaders reshaped the city in preparation for the 2013 Super Bowl. Boyles has been watching who gets paid and how, as well as what the impact has been of New Orleans going all-in on tourism. 

We spoke before the start of Jazz Fest 2017, which we now know drew 425,000, which represented a plateauing of attendance for the festival, though I’d argue that it was pretty respectable for a year that had one rain-shortened day and a few headliners that didn’t bring headline crowds (cough, Harry Connick Jr., cough). As this episode of the My Spilt Milk podcast drops, this year’s Bayou Boogaloo is about to start in Mid-City, and the lineup for the Louisiana Cajun-Zydeco Festival was announced. Because New Orleans can’t stop putting festivals.