Lights Out in Philly?

Yesterday, BillyPenn.com reported that Philadelphia City Councilman Mark Squilla proposed a bill that would require all musicians who gig in the nation’s fifth-most populous city to provide their names, phone numbers and addresses – you know, “register” – with the city’s venues. Upon request, the venues would be required to surrender that information to police.

Squilla went on to say that this bill was proposed in the interest of public safety, telling BillyPenn.com, “Giving performers’ information to police when requested enables them to review past performances to see if there were any public safety issues during their events.”

This proposed legislature, in my opinion, is absurd. To pin “public safety issues” on a particular act (or genre) because folks who attended a show may have gotten out of hand is unfair. Anyone who has ever been to a show – and, just saying, I’ve never seen a city councilman wearing a Slayer t-shirt on the scene – knows that the vast majority of people who act a fool on a night out do so on their own volition, and not because they are incited by a particular artist.

This bill to make artists register – like certain sets of criminals are required to – due to the actions of a few bad apples is unreasonable and damaging, both to the artists and the city’s thriving music scene. And, at the end of the day, it sounds like little more than an ignorant gripe about “those darn kids and their rock/rap/devil/pick-a-genre music” from a yacht-rocking, out-of-touch (grand)father.

The venues don’t make out well in this scenario, either. Squilla’s bill proposes that venues will have to pay a steeper performance licensing fee, which would go from $100 per year to $500 every two years. Many Philly venues – some of which are struggling to keep their doors open in the first place – may balk at this number, opting to forgo live entertainment altogether. This would mean fewer opportunities for a city full of immense talent, which would be the real crime.

If passed, this bill has the potential to bring a bustling arts community to its knees. The hard work, dedication and talent that has been put forth into making Philly a great music destination should not be discounted, and it’s time for the scene to rise up and fight for its life as we know it.

Sign the petition and let Mark Squilla know that his bill is unacceptable.

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