Atlanta’s position as a music mecca could be threatened if proposed new zoning legislation comes to pass. Atlanta City Council members Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens have proposed a new ordinance that will require recording studios to be soundproofed when operating within 500 feet of residential areas.
The proposed legislation stems in part from the murder of local favorite Bankroll Fresh in March 2016. Bankroll, born Trentavious White, was killed outside of Street Execs Studio on the city’s north side. Public outcry was strong at the time after police reportedly found over 50 shell casings at the scene of the crime. Area residents cited a rise in crime — from shootings to assaults and car break-ins — and attributed the blame to the studio and the increased presence of rap artists that came with its growth in traffic since opening in 2015.
“After giving them a second chance,” Dickens, who lives in the area, said after the incident, “now I’m on the side of the community where we were before in saying this type of activity cannot be in our neighborhoods.”
Atlanta’s Zoning Review Board will make a recommendation on an ordinance in a meeting today, Thursday, December 8, but the legislation likely will not be voted on until the new year. However, the proposal has already elicited a strong reaction from those in favor and those against the new law. The biggest complaint against the ordinance is it could make operating a studio too much of a burden, thus forcing current and potential businesses to take their operations to other cities.
“They’re using a machete to do a scalpel’s job,” Maze Studios owner Ben Allen told Creative Loafing. “Much of the hip-hop industry has already migrated elsewhere…[I]f this ordinance goes through, there is no reason why I should stay here, rather than move my business to Nashville or New York.”
He’s not alone in his thinking and studios do have support from the likes of Councilman Kwanza Hall, calling music production part of the city’s “DNA.”He released a statement to the Atlanta Business Chronicle opposing the ordinance, stating the new law could “cripple” the city’s strong entertainment industry.
“By broadly defining ‘music recording studio’ as any facility maintained and equipped for sound recording and mixing for the purposes of producing a product for commercial consumption, this proposed ordinance would cripple Atlanta’s film and television industry as well as our music industry. The notion of soundproofing an entire building that contains a music studio is cost-prohibitive for the vast majority of producers in Atlanta. Producers recording sound for commercial production insist on soundproof studios for two reasons: 1) to prevent sound from getting in and 2) to keep sound from leaking out.”
Currently, there are approximately 90 studios within a 20 mile radius in metro Atlanta, per the Chronicle. Using isolated incidents to enact legislation that ultimately punishes all of these businesses sends a very bad message. While some established studios will be grandfathered in, the new law would make it nearly impossible for new studios to open within the city.
Atlanta is a place that gave the world Outkast, TLC and many more renowned musical acts. Currently, it serves as the go-to place for many rising artists and producers as well as those looking to gain entry into the music industry who want to avoid the high costs of living in New York and California. But, if the new zoning restrictions pass, creatives in the city will have a complicated and possibly expensive path in sharing the next crop of homegrown stars.