Philly's Party Planners Push Back Against the "Promoter's Bill"

By Tara Murtha
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 18 | Posted May. 18, 2010

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Photo by PW Staff

Up until last week, the handful of local promoters aware of Bill 100267, aka the “promoter’s bill,” were at City Hall advocating against it. But the issue went viral over the weekend and now thousands of people have signed an online petition and are speaking out against what they see as a bureaucratic wrecking ball that, if passed, would demolish Philadelphia’s local music and arts scenes.

As it stands, the bill proposed by Councilmen Bill Greenlee and Darrell Clarke in late April is as unclear as it is nonsensical: It would require all promoters (though it’s unclear who exactly qualifies as a promoter) to file paperwork with the Philadelphia Police Department 30 days before each and every event. In Philly, where two corporate Goliaths (Live Nation and AEG) and a shit-ton of indie Davids create the arts and culture scene, the burden of preparing and filing the paperwork alone could drive many promoters out of business. Besides, 30 days is an unrealistic lead-time for many of these events.

The bill would also require that promoters reveal what they are paying venues—a huge disincentive that would undoubtedly result in severed business relationships and fudgy numbers—and specifically states that promoters are responsible for the behavior of all guests at the events.

A roundtable of local promoters sounded off on their reaction to the bill:

Sara Sherr, writer, DJ, Sugar Town & karaoke host, promoter:

“It’s absurd to have the police determine what arts events occur in the city. They already have a huge workload on obviously more life-threatening issues in the city. It creates a lot of meaningless red tape for artists, venues and promoters … It leaves culture in the city in the hands of corporations like Clear Channel.”

Brandy Hartley, venue manager, Johnny Brenda’s:

“[This bill] would put a lot of legitimate promoters and venues out of business if we would have to file paperwork for individual event permits to our local police district, who could deny the permit up to 10 days prior for any or no reason at all. Since JB’s puts on approximately 300 events per year, this requirement would be onerous not only for us, but for our local police … I also do not believe that the venue-promoter contracts should be a matter of public record … It seems as if a few out-of-hand events have led to a bill that cripples a lot of legitimate promoters and venues with its bureaucratic requirements, when what the Council really wants to do is punish a few fly-by-night promoters and special-assembly licensees. In essence, the current bill is so indiscriminate that it is akin to using a crop duster when a fly swatter would do.”

King Britt, artist/musician, Pew fellow, cultural ambassador, promoter:

“My immediate reaction is speechless. For a city with such a rich cultural history in art and music, to pass such a broad law that affects the freedom to create and express, is absolutely insane. As an independent artist who has been creating and representing Philadelphia worldwide since 1986, I find this bill to be absurd for a few reasons.

First, from the perspective of a creative ambassador for Philly 360, which the tourism board of the city has honorably named me (as well as many others), this bill will definitely hurt one of the most important tourist attractions in the city, music performance. So many musicians, DJs, singers and bands come to Philly to perform. Most play for independent promoters and clubs, which create one of the richest music communities in the world. This law would make the flow of business and creativity virtually impossible. Many shows come together in a matter of weeks and they turn out to be the best events of the year.

Second, as a Pew fellow who has contributed musically to this city’s rich heritage, I could not have done this if this bill was in effect. Also, the way the music business is now, our main income isn’t from sales of recordings but through live touring and shows—most bands do their own shows in Philly.

Our mayor was a DJ, he knows how this all goes down. So why would he let this happen?”

Anna Frangiosa, burlesque director, performer and teacher

“I don’t have a car, credit cards or property. I haven’t taken a vacation in two years. I don’t have health insurance. So ... if they want me to be a beggar on the street, by all means, they should pass this.”

John Briley, musician and promoter

“I love my city, and being a part of the music community—it is one with a rich history, which thrives on the spirit of our independent and local artists … Is City Council interested in thinking up innovative ways to aid and support the countless individuals who help make our city a beacon for art and music? No, but that is nothing new. What is a surprise is the city’s willingness to turn around and consider a move in the opposite direction—in the form of another burden to the local art community and the clubs and venues which host them.” 

Andrew Lipke, musician and promoter

“This is absurd. Even if everyone filed the necessary paperwork the city would never be able to review all the information and would become backlogged and overwhelmed, making the whole enterprise worthless. Besides that, what’s the reasoning? There are already strictly enforced zoning laws for the location of music venues and people are certainly allowed to throw parties with music/entertainment/alcohol in places they own.”

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COMMENTS

Comments 1 - 18 of 18
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1. Anonymous said... on May 19, 2010 at 11:28AM

“promoters are already liable for people getting hurt at shows...in the music biz, they call it "insurance"”

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2. PhillyClubScene said... on May 19, 2010 at 11:31AM

“WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE BEING QUOTED?!?!?! Absolutely no CLUB promoters were interviewed or quoted.”

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3. Elizabeth Flynn said... on May 19, 2010 at 11:35AM

“Thank you Tara for writing about this ridiculous law, and especially for speaking to some of the independent artists, venue owners and promoters in Philadelphia. They are truly correct that the city does not have the bureaucratic capacity to support the policing of individual events in Philly's huge live arts scene. Having worked in the entertainment business in many capacities for over 15 years in Philadelphia, I too can attest that the institution of this law is unnecessary, overzealous and completely impractical. It will only hurt a struggling arts community, that are not doing anything illegal. Artists are not criminals, and parties are not a crime. They are big business, and the city will be taking money out of its own pocket through this bill. Don't let it pass!”

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4. Joe W said... on May 19, 2010 at 11:57AM

“In response to Post#1 by 'Anonymous' -- please read the bill -- the increased liability for a promoter includes the actions of the attendees inside and 'in the vicinity' of the event. So, if people leave the venue and mob through the streets, the promoter is held liable, not the individuals committing crimes.

If the promoter gets on a megaphone and tells everyone to go nuts and burn the city down -- I get it -- BUT! Book them as 'inciting to riot,' not as in violation of some vague amendment to the city's special assembly regulations.

This liability clause feels unjust AND lazy on the part of the police, for events at smaller venues -- for a stadium, sure, make sure you have your security staff keeping people in control, and alert the police if an extra presence is needed. If I throw a show at a small venue like the Khyber, and someone inside gets wasted and then goes nuts outside, that's not my fault. End of story.”

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5. JOdozynski said... on May 19, 2010 at 12:10PM

“Alot of people have been saying this bill is about public saftey, it's not! Like gun laws, there are laws already in place! when have you ever been in a public buliding and not seen a cert of occupation with the number of people allowed in that room? fire codes, electric codes, zoning, entertainment premits, Liquor License, ect. these laws just do not get enforced! MAKE NO MISTAKE THIS ABOUT THE CITY TELLING US WHAT IS AND IS NOT ACCEPTABLE! plain and simple CENSORSHIP!!!!!”

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6. PhillyArts&MusicFan said... on May 19, 2010 at 01:33PM

“All I have to say is whatever happened to the concept of personal responsibility? Any adult: whether a promoter, club owner, performer, audience member, or random passerby, can only be held accountable for their own actions.”

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7. Bill Hubbard said... on May 19, 2010 at 10:10PM

“At the end of the day, preservation of the art and artist is paramount....however, liabilities are also an issue...this is a case of using a "broad brush" on a very small group of entrepreneurs who are doing their "creative best" to survive....I say to consider the backlash if an artists creativity cant be expressed....some happy medium must be established....sooner than later................................Onyx Engine”

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8. Pete said... on May 20, 2010 at 08:05AM

“The cultural economy of Philadelphia would be absolutely crippled. Unbelievable ignorance of the live-arts community crafted this bill.”

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9. Murcury said... on May 20, 2010 at 12:19PM

“'“WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE BEING QUOTED?!?!?! Absolutely no CLUB promoters were interviewed or quoted.”'

@PhillyClubScene: Your point? Represent if you feel it's necessary. I think the folks above articulated the situation very well. It's a broad swatch of folks whom this bill would affect.

Is there a possibility the 'CLUB PROMOTERS' are the catalyst for this bill-wrongheaded as it is? I'm just askin'.”

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10. Sam Wilson said... on May 20, 2010 at 01:45PM

“I regularly host Argentine Tango dance and music events both in the city and the suburbs and I can assure you: if this bill passes there would be no more Tango dancing in the city. Last year, I worked with other promoters to bring Argentine electronic musicians Otros Aires to Philadelphia for a concert. If this bill had been in place, that event would not have happened. This year, two-time Latin Grammy nominated Tanghetto will be playing in Philadelphia over Memorial Day at the First Philadelphia International Tango Festival. I'm not directly involved with hosting that event, but this bill would likely have prevented that event from happening as well.

This bill stands to kill numerous cultural activities in this city. Things that fall below the rader, sure, but the exact things that make this city a wonderful place to live, work and play.

After decades of a declining population, the last things this city needs to do is destroy one of the last and best reasons for anyone to live here.”

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11. Mark Wolfe said... on May 20, 2010 at 04:17PM

“responding to anyone asking "who is being quoted" and why... I did not seek out the PW, they asked me. I provided a detailed list of things I found wrong with this bill and the author chose some of my comments and posted them in the article. One thing I did notice was that my title is incorrect and I was asked twice to provide my title and even still it was not included, I am not a "promoter", but I digress...

I frankly think it is irrelevant who was quoted, the comments, as I read them here, are the same and in unison with those who have been quoted. I also notice there are some club promoters quoted, people who book shows at some well known clubs, regardless of affiliation, we all seem to be in agreement that this whole thing stinks to high heaven and if and when it comes down to a vote and the basic tenants of this bill have not been drastically changed, we WILL march on city hall to give it one final push and ultimately if this is passed as it currently reads, we will boycott it.”

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12. m3printing.com said... on May 21, 2010 at 02:38PM

“There is an easy solution to this. Instead of making promoters apply for a permit for each event, make the promoter apply for a promoter identification number or even a simple business license. The promoter would then be responsible for providing that number "proof" to the venue owner. If there is even an incident, accident or whatever there is documentation of the validity/legitimacy of said promoter.

I mean lets face it, the city wants to have a record of what's going within it's jurisdiction but the reality is that it is next to impossible to keep track of each and every event that occurs without basically crippling the promoters. Honestly, the promoter should have a business license anyway, because well....they are doing business!”

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13. Mark Wolfe said... on May 22, 2010 at 03:02PM

“@m3printing.com: Interesting point except that there is no legal definition for a "promoter" which is why this bill is so crazy in the first place. More importantly, there is no distinction between joe-bob sixpack organizing a big family reunion and a someone who is putting on the next lollapaloser and every event that falls in the middle.

People that plan shows, from weddings to arena rock events already have to have insurance and deal with a litany of existing laws and regulations as do the clubs and venues that hold said events.

It seems to me the focus for the police should be on how to best handle crowd issues that have violence or vandalism, weather it is a so called "flash-mob" of facebook organized high school kids or spillover from a well attended show. Since fallout and damage from this problem is the issue, why not deal directly with that instead of making it impossible to hold events in the first place?

More police, better organization & enforcement of existing laws.”

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14. BCRphilly.com said... on May 22, 2010 at 05:54PM

“Councilmen Bill Greenlee will be live on air at BlackCollarRadio.com
Sun @ 6pm.
Call in with all of your questions and concerns.”

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15. Angry Pirate said... on May 24, 2010 at 10:53PM

“Yesterday, 5/23, Black Collar Radio had Councilman Greenlee on to discuss this bill for about an hour, and we got some interesting answers, as well as some interesting non-answers. You can listen to the replays at www.blackcollarradio.com/channels/podcast and hear it from the source of it all. Great work by all that made the noise to start Council's initial retreat, fuckin A and rock on.

Black Collar Crew”

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16. JJ said... on May 26, 2010 at 02:26PM

“Hey...it's not like muscians need to work or eat, or have families or anything.
There are plenty of other jobs in Philadelphia. We're just not trying hard enough.”

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17. beauracrats said... on Jun 18, 2010 at 05:16PM

“Really thought the city was broke.....no budget for books for schools,no budget for school lunch(ie if your kid doesn't have money in his pocket he doesn't eat)
no budget for teachers,no budget for public library,no budget for fire department,no budget for music in our schools
But the city has a budget to approve permits......
i be willing to bet that moron city council men got good money from clear channel and live nation for his campaign ......”

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18. Anonymous said... on Jun 18, 2010 at 05:19PM

“U got to be kidding me................
this city is boring enough................
smells like someone is clearing the way for corp America to take over whats left of night life in the city..........live nation & clear channel...”

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