Save Chicago Culture

Visit now and sign the petition. Here’s why:

I just got back from a run along the lakefront. What is normally an almost-vacation-like experience for me as I head toward the beautiful city skyline with Lake Shore Drive on one side and Lake Michigan on the other was, today, bittersweet.

On my mp3 player were songs by The Attraction, Disonic, Lucid Ground, On The Front, Section 4, Mindsight, Seven Day Sonnet – all Chicago bands. Local music is my passion, but if the Chicago City Council gets its way on Wednesday, those bands could cease to exist or be driven to other, more arts-friendly cities.

On May 14 the City Council will vote on an ordinance requiring any event promoter to have a license and liability insurance. That doesn’t sound so bad, except the language is so broad individual bands and theater groups could be included. Most are operating on such tight margins this would effectively put them out of “business”. Problem is, musicians and actors and other artists are in the business of creating art. The venues are in the business of providing a safe environment and already have licenses and insurance. This is duplicate regulation versus enforcing laws that are already on the books.

This also means that publications like The Local Tourist, Chicago Acoustic Underground, Chicago Music Guide, Gapers Block, Chicagoist, and Time Out Chicago would have to be licensed if we want to put on concerts showcasing the talent we feature. For example, Chicago Acoustic Underground and The Local Tourist are putting on a benefit concert in August. Even though we both have established solid reputations for our support of local music, AND are hosting this event at a venue with insurance, proper licenses, and a history of safety, we would be required to apply for this promoter’s license and get additional, duplicate insurance.

Performers are exempt from this ordinance, with one glaring exception: if the performer “exercises no other financial or non-performance-related operational responsibility in connection therewith.” Bands are often required to sell their own tickets. So are actors. They do their own advertising and promotion. Some venues will book one band and require them to choose the rest of the lineup. All those bands I listened to this afternoon have been in those situations and therefore would need to get a license.

There’s some question about whether or not it will even be enforced, considering the city doesn’t enforce the existing legislation (which would have prevented the E2 disaster), but that’s a moot point. Reputable venues will comply with the regulations because they’re reputable.

Of course, the city is exempt from this, which seems even more ridiculous considering the response Efrat Dallal Stein, the spokeswoman for the Department of Business Affairs & Licensing, gave to Jim DeRogatis during an interview. Stein said this was also meant to combat overcrowding. “Say, for example, the capacity of the venue is 200 people, and they promote it to 1,000 people, and they have 500 people that show up. They have an issue of overcrowding, they have an issue of 500 people who cannot get in who are standing out in front of the venue.” What, like when the city ran out of wristbands at Looptopia so that thousands of kids were roaming downtown in the middle of the night with no place to go, and there was a mosh pit in Millennium Park with police chasing kids down Michigan Avenue, both on foot and in cruisers? Besides the hypocrisy in that statement, when’s the last time you heard of 500 people being turned away at Metro?

There have been some comments that event promoters should be licensed just like any other business. Yes, some actors and some musicians go on to make ridiculous sums of money, but the overwhelming majority struggle day to day, put in hours of practice after working full-time jobs, and receive little to nothing financially in return. Their “job” is to entertain. It is the venue’s job to provide a safe environment, and there are already laws in place to ensure that safety.

The arts have a long history of patronage. Today’s artists don’t have wealthy benefactors to support them while they create something beautiful, moving, thought provoking, amusing, or entertaining. Instead they have us – the patron that will gladly pay our $5 or $12 or $15 to experience their creativity.

Please, if you feel half as strongly as I do about protecting our vital and vibrant arts and music scene, visit and leave a comment. Chicago Acoustic Underground and The Local Tourist will be presenting comments from this site to every single Alderman and to the Chicago City Council. On the site you can also find your specific representative to contact individually.






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