Residents Look to Incentivize Growth for Local Musical Performers

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By Lauren Poteat, Special to the AFRO

Life may have just gotten a little sweeter for small performing arts venues and artists, looking to capitalize on the intimacy, originality and authenticity of their local music.

On Oct. 30, legislation B22-577 the “Performing Arts Promotion Amendment Act of 2017,” originally proposed by Councilmember Robert White (D- At Large) last year, was up on the table for discussion.

Herbert Scott, Aaron Meyers, Council member Robert White (D- At Large), Graham Smith-White, Alisha Edmonson and Omrao Brown at the D.C. Council hearing advocating for to incentivizing businesses that promote live performances and local artists. (Courtesy Photo/Robert White Twitter)

Intended to promote local performing artists by giving incentives to businesses that host live performances, local musicians and small venue owners gathered in the D.C. Council office to solicit amendments.

“Community music hubs serve more than just alcohol,” Graham Smith-White, a local performer and sound engineer testified. “It’s a place to gather, to try new forms of art, music and culture.”

“We’ve lost a lot of spaces to perform at, so it would be good to see within the bill, something that incentivizes growth,” White continued. “Small venues are very important and allows for creative spaces for people to try new disciplines and skills, in an atmosphere that is more free and creative… And with the rising rent and the way the general economy is, it is important to function as a business and make that leap.”

Chris Naoum, co-founder of “Listen Local First D.C.” also expressed his concerns for the virtually extinct local music hubs and the current bill.

“Small D.C. local venues act as a great hub for live music,” Naoum said. “They act as a way to allow musicians to work their way up to bigger theatres like Howard and Warner.”

“So it is a necessity to address some of the issues inside of the current bill including properly paying all artists, not allowing them to work for free, increasing 150 person venue capacity, adjusting the $750,000 gross penalization and re-evaluating the credit cap of $10,000 a year.”

Not impartial to the recommendations, Councilmember Jack Evans, who spearheaded the meeting, stated that he “really wanted to focus on these issues” and how to make it better.

Highlighting popular small music venues including “Marvin’s,” “Blue’s Alley” and “Twin’s Jazz” all located in northwest, Councilmember White also shared his sentiments on upgrading the bill.

“I wrote this bill to address the loss of performing arts venues in the District and to give more businesses an incentive to open their space to our talented residents,” White said. “D.C.’s arts scene is legendary. Our job is to make sure it continues to be.”