There's a bit of a buzz going on around local music circles, with some wondering what's happening with the much hyped "Seattle: City of Music" initiative. If you can, remember back to October 2008 (before Tea Party Republicans, Lady GaGa, Balloon Boy, or Mayor Mike McGinn), the 12-year City of Music initiative launched with a big event at The Paramount Theater to a crowd of over 1,000 people. And it got a lot of press—The Seattle Times, The PI, The Stranger.
Former Mayor Greg Nickels announced a plan to make Seattle a destination for musicians and the music business. The plan included an admissions tax exemption for live music venues, more support for music education in public schools, and a music commission similar to commissions in Austin, which has a seven member commission appointed by the City Council to advise the council on music development issues and Chicago, which has an independent commission of about 30 members whose mission is "to transform the relationship between Chicago and its music community."
The Seattle announcement followed several years of what has come to be known as "The War on Nightlife," led by Nickels and now-former City Attorney Tom Carr, something that played a part in both incumbents' defeats this November.
Over a year has gone by and some folks are now openly questioning what has happened to the plan.
My take—we're doing okay. The hype happened, and since then the hard work has begun. Since the launch, the City indeed passed the "Live Music Venue Admissions Tax Exemption," exempting venues under 999 capacity that host live music from paying the 5 percent tax on ticket sales. And the Music Commission has been approved by Council, though seemingly due to Nickels' campaign for Mayor and loss in the Primary, no one has yet to be appointed.
Both the Council and McGinn have promised to address this soon. The Office of Film and Music also produced the first annual Seattle City of Music Awards, presenting awards to Quincy Jones, Fleet Foxes, and KEXP. And possibly most importantly, the Music Office helped to open the Artist Clinic, providing low-cost health care to artists and musicians via the Country Doctor on Capitol Hill.
Some might still respond "So what? The City of Music plan had much loftier goals. These are relatively small accomplishments."
To that I say, you're right. There are loftier goals: Like creating "public-private partnerships that create and retain music industry related jobs;" getting "music education programs provided by all public schools;" and enabling musicians to own their own homes and raise a family through a career in music.
But keep in mind we're only one year into a 12-year plan, the goal of which is to execute on two or three concrete ideas each year. Authorizing the Commission. Check. Affordable health care. Check. And establishing an awards ceremony to highlight the community. Check.
Let's use these year-one accomplishments to cue up a real future for music and musicians in Seattle.
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