What started as a way to keep in touch with a few fellow musicians has blossomed into an organization with around 800 members.
North Louisiana Musicians Association (NoLaMA – pronounced no-la-may) was started by musician Brad Dison.
“When I started the association, I set it up just to keep in touch with a few musicians,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d have 20, 30 people interested in it.”
Those few first members began to tell their friends about the association and in six months it has grown to its current size.
“Every day I look on there, one or two more members have been added,” Dison said.
As the group began to grow beyond his expectations, Dison said he realized live performing musicians in the area had a need.
“The times have changed so much in north Louisiana from the 50’s and 60’s when it was such a popular place for music,” Dison said. “Now it’s kind of a struggle, not to find a musician, but to find places to play. A lot of the clubs have gone to DJ’s because, of course, it’s more cost effective.”
He said he wanted to create a resource for local musicians to trade information. To accomplish this, Dison said he allows free communication through NoLaMA’s Facebook page, as long as the conversation is polite and about music.
On the website he also offers a place for local musicians to sell or buy used gear or to sell their band merchandise. Dison has also begun a project to help venues and bands connect.
“We designed a calendar on the website where you could find out, say if you are in Alexandria tonight, here are the clubs that have bands and this is where you go,” he said. “Then I started thinking, instead of having a booking agent do all this, why don’t I just make a resource for clubs in the area that book live bands.”
This led Dison to create lists of bands and venues, so that a venue looking for a particular type of band or a musician looking for a particular type of venue have a place to find each other.
Another aspect of the association that is very important to Dison is that the resource remains free.
“Nobody pays for anything,” he said. “The only thing that makes money is that I have t-shirts for sale on there and CD’s for sale.”
The CD’s are NoLaMA’s biggest project to date, and showcase songs from area musicians.
“I’m surprised at the level of interest,” Dison said. “It’s playing everywhere from – let’s see what was the furthest place on the map – I think I’ve got three different radio stations in New Orleans that are playing it. NPR, Red River Radio is playing it.”
Minden musician, Kerry Easley of Dorcheat Bottom Band, said that NoLaMA has had a significant impact on his band’s notoriety.
“The reason that I got involved is because social media is one of those things that helps you grow and get people to know who you are,” he said. “The main thing that I noticed was last Wednesday night, me and the guys went to this open mic (in Shreveport). When we walked in the door, everybody knew who we were. I didn’t know anybody in there.
“That’s how I can see some positive results from it,” Easley said, “You walk into a place that you’ve never been in before, but they know who you are.”
While his band was not on the first compilation, Easley said he hoped to be part of the second.
“Brad’s going to try to use a couple of our songs on a second edition of the North Louisiana Musicians Association CD that he’s starting to produce,” he said.
As a musician, Dison himself is a sort of “jack-of-all-trades.”
“I play guitar, bass, drums, piano, lead vocals, back-up vocals,” he said. “I’ve been in so many bands I’ve done just about every form you could imagine.”
Being from a musical family, Dison said that he has been part of the music scene for years.
“I’ve been playing in north Louisiana for the past 10 or 12 years I guess,” he said. “Anything from country, rock to just about anything you could imagine. All over north Louisiana, Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria.”
He currently is a part of two musical projects. He has played bass with Extreme Caution for around seven years, and is in the process of setting up his own band.
A limited number of the NoLaMA CD’s are available at the Webster Parish Convention and Visitors Bureau and may also be found at the Webster Parish Library in Minden.
For more information about the association, visit them on Facebook or at their website, http://www.nolama.com.