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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Mayor Offers Tax Cut to Smallish Live Music Venues

posted by on September 17 at 12:19 PM

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels announced incentives to boost live music venues in the city this morning in a press conference at Neumos. Prefacing the initiatives with an anecdote about Travel & Leisure magazine rating Seattle seventh in the country for quality live music experiences, Nickels expressed a desire to elevate our ranking.

To accomplish this, he proposed to waive the current 5-percent admissions tax on ticket sales for venues that meet the following qualifications:

1) capacity under 1,000
2) host/present live music on average at least three times weekly
3) hire at least 16 musicians weekly on average
4) have committed fewer than four violations of any one or more civil or criminal laws regarding health, noise, licensing, taxing or permitting in the last year.

The tax cut, which would take effect January 1, 2009, theoretically will create a more beneficial environment for new clubs to open and for existing clubs to “hire more musicians,” the mayor said. The ultimate goal, as Neumos co-owner Steven Severin stated at the press conference, is to “put more money in the pockets of local musicians.” He roughly estimated that the admissions tax can cost his club around $2,500 $3,500 a month from gross ticket sales. Severin also noted that this move may not necessarily translate into lower cover charges, as many variables factor into those prices.

Further, Nickels announced the inauguration of the music venue assistance program, which allows local businesses a single entry point to city government. The guidebook, overseen by Office of Film and Music head James Keblas, provides resources to help entrepreneurs attain success in the live-music industry. It can be accessed at

Representatives from Tula’s and Triple Door, as well as a Brazilian musician named Jovino Santos-Neto, the last of whom—somewhat oddly—waxed abstract and poetic about the power of music, supported the measure. Becca Minkoff of Triple Door asserted that the tax exemption will enable her business to take more risks and attract bigger acts.

One reporter asked Nickels if this measure was intended to counter the negative response to the city’s crackdown on some nightclubs. He replied that the reprimanded clubs were not live music venues and said that the city periodically needs to takes these actions to ensure a safe yet vibrant nightlife.

The Seattle Nightlife and Music Association (SNMA) approved of Nickels’ small-business-friendly initiative. SNMA President/Havana owner Quentin Ertel remarked, “This is a great step in the right direction. It shows that the Mayor is on the side of small business, but more importantly it shows that he is on the side of music.”

RSS icon Comments


awesome work by our city. awesome article by Slog. thanks Dave!

Posted by hahnsolo | September 17, 2008 2:45 PM

Yeah, these seem like pretty sound moves. Now if only we could get something done about the medieval WSLCB and find some solutions to all the noise complaints that accompany gentrification...

Posted by Eric Grandy | September 17, 2008 3:14 PM

Grandy - the noise issue is being worked on.

About the WSLCB, that's a state issue, nothing the Mayor can do about it. But if you live in the 36th, vote for Reuven Carlyle, he wants to reform the WSLCB as much as anyone.

This is a good day for the Seattle music community - the hard work over the last several years is paying off, and hopefully we'll see more fruits from it. Everyone who has written emails, letters, shown up at council meetings and committee meetings, and written articles should give themselves a little pat on the back. Good work y'all.

Posted by Meinert | September 17, 2008 3:45 PM

Today's press conference was definitely a step in the right direction, and offers hope that the Mayor will back his words with action.

While today's proposals did not address many important issues, such as noise ordinances, they definitely indicate a tangible support for small businesses that add to Seattle's cultural map.

The missteps made by the City with regard to nightlife have been well documented. I wish that one of the assembled reporters would have taken the opportunity to question the Mayor on something a little more hard hitting than whether or not he considers DJs to be musicians.

Which, in all fairness, was a good question. But, still.

Anyway, a step in the right direction is good for all involved. Less tax = more money to pay musicians. And, they had good juice.

Posted by kerri harrop | September 17, 2008 4:01 PM

The press was a little disappointing. Lots of them there, not real good questions. It would have been great to see The Stranger be out a little more in force and with some hard hitting questions. But I don't think the Weekly even showed up at all. Lame.

Good look for Keblas and Robert Mack though - and I mean that aesthetically - they actually made the club look good during daylight hours. Good work fellas.

Posted by Meinert | September 17, 2008 4:17 PM

That's awesome, I just saw it on the local news. That tax is always a pain if your putting on a show in a club as an outside promoter, along with paying the door guy, the sound guy, security, then there are the extra taxes... all before paying the bands. I have so much respect for anyone that can survive running a club these days in this city. This seems pretty surprising too, given how lame the city government has been towards rock clubs the last couple of years. KING 5's coverage was especially lame, imagine Dan Lewis saying "Mayor Greg Nichols wants to help the Seattle's vibrant music scene that spawned such artists at Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix!" I wonder why the Mayor suddenly had a change of heart after being such an asshole toward rock'n'roll for so long? My theory always was he's a big closet Kenny G fan and hates loud music.

Posted by dan10things | September 17, 2008 7:16 PM

Nice... but letting people drink and see a show without being herded into a cage would be better. I'm betting the increased profits from alcohol sales would be much more profitable than the ticket tax waiver. I don't think Seattle's going to move up on that list while you're stuck drinking your beer in the back (or the teens can't show up at all). What's wrong w/ a big X on the hand like every place else?

Posted by champ | September 17, 2008 10:11 PM

Santos-Neto always speaks in metaphors. ALWAYS. He also has a big problem with electronic music because it "showcases gear".

Sounds like a step in the right direction on Nickels' part, but still not great. I'm sorry, but if you live in a CITY, then you best be expecting fucking noise. That is how it works. In Seattle the noise is mild to say the least.

Posted by derby | September 18, 2008 12:31 AM

Maybe blockhead learned something from his visit to Austin. Nightlife is not inherently a bad thing.

Posted by kitschnsync | September 18, 2008 11:34 AM

The Austin music scene's been fighting a poorly-defined noise ordinance for over a decade, so I'm sure he picked up some pointers there on how to make sure that a club always feels the axe about to fall. Austin's music scene is no more vibrant than Seattle's, unless you think SXSW "is" the Austin scene.

Posted by Tiktok | September 18, 2008 7:09 PM

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