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May. 18 2010 - 2:30 am | 957 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

Will Philly say ‘yes’ to cultural fascism?

On Friday, the Philadelphia City Paper stumbled upon a proposed bill that could dramatically alter the city’s cultural landscape. Bill No. 100267 is no ordinary promoters ordinance. If passed into law, the ordinance has the potential to stop smaller clubs’ schedules completely and leave many local musicians without any hometown support. The City Paper broke it down well:

Under the proposed rules, promoters would have to apply for a permit from the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) 30 days before every single event — meaning if you promote a weekly club night, that’s 52 permit applications per year . More than just a bureaucratic nightmare, this would all but abolish last-minute shows or pickup parties. These applications would have to include detailed security plans, the promoter’s business-privilege-license number, the venue’s capacity and the expected crowd. Perhaps most importantly, the bill would hold promoters liable for the actions of the crowds at the events they promote.

Beyond the kind of infrastructure chaos such an ordinance would cause (how many small clubs have the staff required to tackle such a monumental load of paperwork?), the amount of control the city would have over shows is absurd. According to the bill, Philadelphia’s Police Department has the final say:

Application for such promoted event permit shall be made in writing to the captain of the police district in which the event is to take place at least thirty days prior to such event, upon a suitable form prescribed and furnished by the Commissioner. The application shall be deemed approved unless it is denied at least ten days prior to such event.

Seem fishy? That’s because there’s no set list of reasons for the PPD to deny a permit. Which means the PPD can deny a permit for any reason. That isn’t to say that the Department will go on some sort of tirade, denying permits to any event featuring a performer who doesn’t like, say, the Phillies. But, the potential to abuse such a power isn’t just great: It’s already there. The PPD has the ultimate say on what gets approval, and when pop music has a history of churning out artists who challenge the status quo, who knows what shows will be shut down for absolutely no reason. Had N.W.A. toured through Philly with such a law in place when their infamous song was all the rage, chances are Philadelphia would have been removed from their road map.

What’s worse is the bill removes any semblance of personal responsibility from the local government. The law would require all promoters to follow a strict set of requirements. But, among the list of individuals or organizations not considered “promoters” under the proposed bill, one peculiar description pops up:

(vi) any employee of the City of Philadelphia or a city agency or a city-related agency, to the extent that the employee plans, prepares or executes an event in the course of such employment.

Which sounds like a promoter. Nothing like washing away any semblance of responsibility, right?

These are just a few of the issues that the bill proposed by City Councilmen Darrell Clarke and Bill Greenlee happen to bring up. Such a potential law would drive touring musicians (or celebrities, etc) away from Philadelphia. Booking agents, managers and artists have enough to deal with in the process of planning a tour: The last thing they would want to worry about is that, even with every “t” crossed and “i” dotted, their show could be potentially cut. And 10 days before the proposed concert for that matter. This bill doesn’t instill confidence in the system, it shuts down a vibrant city’s scene.

And, of course, it’s Philadelphia’s homegrown music scene that has to deal with such issues. Tiny clubs featuring up-and-coming bands will be inundated with paperwork they can’t handle, bands who may not be used to the process suddenly have more than they might be able to handle, and suddenly a community is under the penetrating microscope of the PPD. How does that create a welcome, open cultural environment for everyone.

Philadelphia’s produced a wide array of diverse acts that have captured the ears of music listeners around the world. Be it The Roots, Diplo, Paint It Black, Dr. Dog, Spank Rock, Man Man, Jedi Mind Tricks, Algernon Cadwallader, Pattern Is Movement, whatever your taste is, there’s probably been a band or musician that calls Philly home and made a career there during the last two decades. So, how on earth can the City of Philadelphia justify stunting the growth of their vibrant city’s cultural future with such a poorly-conceived bill?

You can read the bill here, find out more about the arguments against the bill here, and, if you disagree with the bill, sign the petition against it here.

And now, a small sample of Philadelphia-bred music and musicians.

The Roots:

Dr. Dog:

Major Lazer (Diplo + Switch):

Paint It Black:

Man Man:

Jedi Mind Tricks:

Algernon Cadwallader:

Spank Rock:

Pattern Is Movement:


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    About Me

    I write about music here at True/Slant. I'm also a freelance writer for the A.V. Club Chicago. I've previously written for The Boston Phoenix, Bostonist, Rock Sound and some school publications.

    I used to book shows. I helped put on concerts featuring: Girl Talk, Man Man, Mission of Burma, The Twilight Sad, A Place To Bury Strangers, The Dirty Projectors, Parts & Labor, Maritime, White Rabbits, Ian MacKaye and countless others.

    I'm in grad school at Medill.

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    What I'm Up To

    I’m currently a graduate journalism student at Medill. Aside from my True/Slant work, I freelance for The A.V. Club, the Washington City Paper, The Boston Phoenix and blog at Perfect Lines. I’m also working on a book, America Is Just A Word: Post-Hardcore, Emo and American Culture.

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    See you at the next show!