Para artículo en español clic aquí:El Proyecto Ella ayuda a los músicos de Nueva Orleans
By Axel Lola Rosa
Louisiana has birthed and contributed to many genres of music over the years, such as Jazz, Zydeco, and Bounce, to name a few. Just like any other business, the music business has a legal department. For the independent artist, who is usually a one-person show, no pun intended, they typically don’t have a legal team. That’s where The Ella Project comes in. The Ella Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by Ashlye Keaton & Gene Meneray that provides direct pro bono legal intellectual property and entertainment law assistance.
Keaton practices intellectual property and entertainment law and is an adjunct at Tulane University. She has received numerous accolades, including New Orleans City Business Leadership in Law and OffBeat Magazine’s Best Music Attorney. Meneray is a Native New Orleanian, Tulane University Alumni, and held the Director of Artist Services title at the Arts Council of New Orleans for over a decade.
According to backstage.com, hiring an entertainment lawyer can range from 5% of one’s talent fee to hourly rates starting at $300. Keaton and Meneray’s work began almost 20 years ago with a partnership of the Arts Council of New Orleans, Tipitina’s Foundation, and Tulane Law School. It had provided services to over 3,000 clients by 2016. “We’ve been doing the work since about 2004, and then we set it up as an independent nonprofit in 2016,” said Meneray. Keaton came out of Law School practicing entertainment law at a local firm with clients with needs, but those clients could not afford the services. “What if we set up a program to get someone else to pay for it?” And the Ella Project was conceived.
Aside from providing legal advice, the ELLA Project offers various programming and workshops. One of those workshops is Crescendo. When she was an Ella Project student volunteer, attorney Bri Whetstone realized a different need amongst clients. “It was great when the musicians would come to us with questions and problems… but what if there was a way we could go ahead and teach them about certain red flags in the music industry?”.
With Whetstone instructing, the Ella Project started offering simple workshops. Soon after, Whetstone met Lou Hill. Hill’s knowledge and teachings caught Whetstone’s attention, “I was blown away by how he talked about the practical side…‘This is how you get money. These are the things you should be doing.’ So I wanted to combine that experience with the law.” That’s how Crescendo came to be. Hill is a music entrepreneur, songwriter, and musician with Waterseed, a New Orleans Future Funk band. “I was asked to speak at Crescendo and met these guys (Meneray and Whetstone) because I was already familiar with Ella.” The following year, Hill joined Crescendo as an instructor. “My effort in New Orleans is figuring out how to get musicians in a place where their art financially supports them.”
The Ella Project offers direct one-on-one services and programs in English. Still, it does not limit its services to English speakers. “We have brought in translators before…I have a rolodex of translators. We can have somebody come there (Ella Project Offices) and translate for legal appointments. That’s not a problem,” said Meneray about the need for non-English speaking musicians. This year’s seven-week Crescendo workshops occur every Tuesday, from 5 PM - 7 PM, at the New Orleans Jazz Museum beginning September 26th. For more information about the Ella Project, to make an appointment or a donation, visit www.ellanola.org or call 504-250-0429.