Atlanta Sound Studio Ordinance Goes to Vote Today

Atlanta Sound Studio Ordinance Goes to Vote Today

By now, you’ve probably heard about the controversial piece of legislation proposed by Atlanta City Councilwoman Felicia Moore. The law, dubbed the Sound Studio Ordinance (Z-16-069), was crafted in response to two high-profile shootings at Atlanta music studios in 2016. The most famous of which was the shooting killing rising rapper Bankroll Fresh.

The law itself includes noise limits on all new music studios established within Atlanta city limits, requires them to be several hundred feet from residential neighborhoods. It would also require all new music studios to apply for special permits before establishing one themselves.

Photo credit: Mala Sharma

A recent hearing at the Atlanta City Council Zoning Committee brought out many representatives of the Atlanta music community in protest against the legislation. Both the Zoning Committee and the Atlanta Zoning Review Board have both heard the legislation, and both bodies voted against it unanimously. However, those votes are merely advisory to the larger vote which will be taken by the Atlanta City Council on Tues., Jan. 17.

Georgia Music Partners (GMP) is a volunteer organization has been around for six years and counts around 1,000 dues-paying members around the state. The GMP seeks to advocate on behalf of the music industry in this state on policy, community, and business issues. It is an all-volunteer organization, and all its revenue from dues and donations goes to advocacy for the music industry in Georgia. GMP estimates there are about 20,000 people in Georgia connected to the music industry, and that there are no other organizations representing them on a statewide basis.

Mala Sharma, head of governmental affairs, said, "That while there are many arts-based organizations in Atlanta, there is no consolidated organization that represents the art interests of the city as a whole in the way I would like to see. I would like the organization to extend beyond the music scene to encompass the needs of all artists in the city, and hope that such an organization would be highly organized at the political level."

Sharma noted that GMP opposes this bill because of its sweeping manner of dealing with a problem, and City Councilman Kwanza Hall echoed that sentiment, saying that the legislation uses too broad of a brush. There are hundreds of music studios in Georgia, and GMP has identified at least 90 in the city of Atlanta. Some of these studios have been around for over 30 years and the rate of crime at these studios has historically actually been very low. GMP views the shootings in 2016 as a crime issue, not linked to music studios intrinsically. To hear more on this issue, listen to an interview Graham Marsh of CLAVVS did with Closer Look on WABE.

Their argument is that noise complaints only arise when music studios are throwing parties, and there are already noise ordinances which cover issues like that. Almost by definition, noise is not a general music studio problem. Music studios are sound insulated to prevent any noise bleeding into the recording session, so if no sound can come in, then it stands to reason that little or no noise can get out. GMP would like to see existing noise ordinances enforced where necessary rather than a new piece of legislation which could hamper the local arts scene by adding another layer of bureaucracy.

Sharma did note that, "This event has brought the music community together."

She and the rest of GMP hope to capitalize on that, not only by stopping this ordinance, but by creating an ongoing dialogue between industry and city leaders. She said that GMP exists to let musicians be a resource to city and state leaders, as well as to represent the interests of the community.

The GMP is already working on legislation that would provide tax incentives to the Georgia music industry, similar to incentives which have been given to movie and TV film projects. This planned legislation would include a focus on live music incentives, so it would target things like tour rehearsals, which can occupy hotels, sound stages, and transportation needs for weeks at a time.

Sharma further noted that, "Local leaders like Alex Wan and Kwanza Hall have been very supportive of GMP, and I am optimistic about this bill being voted down in the City Council meeting on Tuesday. In advance of the upcoming Atlanta mayoral election, GMP will be putting together a scorecard on all the candidates, but there is no timeline on that yet."

Tuesday’s event is the full Atlanta City Council meeting where the final vote will be made on the ordinance. Given it’s unanimous rejection by both the Zoning Review Board and Zoning Committee, it is unlikely to pass, but GMP is still asking for people to come out in support of the artist community on Tues., Jan. 17. Attendees are encouraged to wear red in support of the music community and in opposition to the bill. After the vote, there will be a gathering at Venkman’s to discuss the outcome, and organize next steps for the community.

In addition, Georgia Music Day is coming up in February (date not yet set), and there will be a gathering at the Capitol. Attendees of that event are also encouraged to wear red.

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