Monday, May 12, 2008


In sum, the City of Chicago is trying to pass an ordinance which will effectively kill the underground music scene in Chicago as we know it. A petition condemning the ordinance can be found here. MFR strongly encourages you to sign it so that you may save Chicago's music scene.

For a more detailed explanation, read on.

Now, I realize that this is a blog about Minneapolis and everything, and how absurd that it is that I, living in the city of Chicago, am covering a music scene of a city 450 miles (give or take) Northwest of me, but hear me out. This news should be appalling to anyone and, more importantly, any band-- that's ever played the great city of Chicago--whether it's been at the Empty Bottle (as Mute Era did on the 1st of this month), Subterranean, the Beat Kitchen, The Hideout, The Metro, or at one of the myriad of great underground venues that this city has. I hope that my hometown has been hospitable to you and that you enjoyed it. If the City of Chicago passes an ordinance on the 14th (Wednesday), the opportunities for bands, regardless if they're local or from out of town, to play underground venues will be forever gone.

The City of Chicago, in light of various nightclub tragedies (specifically, the E2 club tragedy, which would have been prevented had previous enacted laws had been enforced), has pushed forth legislation, without any input from the participants in Chicago's music scene, which would try to root out "illegitimate" underground promoters. While such a goal is unquestionably noble, the law itself is so poorly written that it will undoubtedly skewer the very scene that it's trying to save.

Jim DeRogatis elaborates:
If approved by the committee and the City Council, the law would require anyone promoting any event drawing more than 100 people to obtain a license — even if they are working with a well-established and already licensed promoter.

Licensees would also have to carry at least $300,000 in commercial liability insurance (even if the venue is insured), and they would have to be at least 21 years old (thereby ruling out enterprising college students, D.I.Y. punk fans and other budding young entrepreneurs from hosting a concert or a legal rave — and if you think that’s not a good idea, you should know that several of the top promoters in Chicago actually started their careers at age 18 or 19).

What all this means is that if, say, a local fanzine wanted to promote a monthly concert featuring the bands in its new issue at a well-established local club of 200 capacity, the editors would have to apply for a promoters’ license and meet all of the requirements and expenses, even if the club already has a license and can boast of a clean record of trouble-free events. The same would hold true of many regular benefit gigs.

As it now stands, the law would only allow venues with “fixed seating” — that is to say, chairs that can’t be removed — to host one-time events by unlicensed promoters like our magazine or benefit in the example above. This requirement rules out the exact sort of clubs that would most benefit from these events, including venues such as the Empty Bottle, Buddy Guy’s Legends and Metro.

One music activist who asked not to be named said that “the net impact of this law is simple: It’s going to make it harder for a lot of people to promote concerts in Chicago, and therefore there’s going to be less music in Chicago.

As you can imagine, many of those who are active in making Chicago music happen are not pleased. The petition came my way via the newsletter for The Empty Bottle. This quote comes from the Chicago Music Commission, a group who strongly opposes the measure (again, via DeRogatis):

The language of the ordinance as drafted unnecessarily and perhaps prohibitively increases the cost of doing business for any promoter seeking to work with PPA-licensed music venues under 500 seats and those without "fixed seating", including, among many others, Schuba’s, Buddy Guy’s Legends, the Vic Theater, the Riviera Theater, the Metro, The Hideout, Uncommon Ground, and Martyrs’. Many of these small and non-fixed seating venues rely on contracting with third party promoters for a significant portion of their revenue while their customers safely enjoy the entertainment. This ordinance will not address the "bad actors" CMC and the City agree are the root of the problem--underground promoters seeking to make a quick buck who put on unsafe events.

Imagine what would happen if the Turf Club, or Kitty Cat Klub, the Triple Rock, or 7th street entry, the Hexagon, Stasiu's, or any other venue in Minneapolis were to be subjected to such laws: it would severely impact, perhaps even bankrupt, the music scene. Furthermore, what would happen if other clubs in other cities were to fold because they could not afford to pay the promoter's fee? Where would bands tour? Live music is, like many other industries, already suffering enough due to mitigating factors as market saturation and the dismal state of the economy. Ordinances such as these--again, unquestionably well-intentioned in light of the E2 stampede--will nonetheless suffocate art which strives toward non-conformity, and the venues who support said artists.

Again, the petition is here.

Thank you for reading and signing.

(Jonathan Graef, on behalf of MFR)

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Blogger April said...

The ordinance is pulled, according to the petition link. Details should be up soon.


3:53 PM  

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