Mayor's 12-year plan crowns Seattle as a "City of Music"

Before a crowd of musicians, industry players and community supporters, Mayor Greg Nickels confirmed what the town has already known for years: Seattle is the "music capital of America."

Those were the mayor's exact words, as he delivered somewhat of a rally cry during the two-hour presentation at the Paramount Theatre on October 29. Enacting a three-headed plan to create a more livable culture for area musicians, "Seattle City of Music" is the culmination of a 2007 study conducted by the mayor's office.

"Seattle's musicians are part of Seattle's identity - they help give our city its soul," said Nickels in a press release. "Live music performances bring us together and play a large role in our lives, and this incentive will ensure our musicians have more venues to share their creativity and spirit."

The 12-year plan includes tax exemptions for smaller venues - less than 1,000 in capacity - and a venue assistance program in its first phase. The exemption of 5 per cent on each dollar is already on the books for 2009-10. It could benefit more than 65 clubs and venues across the county.

According to the city, the music industry is responsible for nearly 12,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in sales in Seattle alone. In addition, the scene generates $90 million each year in local, state and B&O taxes.

The evening featured a handful of performances from local artists, including Garfield High School's renowned jazz band, Seattle All-City Marching Band and hip-hop favorites Blue Scholars. Representatives from within the scene also shared the stage, standing firmly in support of the city's proposal.

The city praised Seattle and its music community for its work over the years. Praising the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, Quincy Jones, Death Cab for Cutie and Pearl Jam for their contributions, the city's plan not only includes independent musicians, but students, teachers and business owners within the community.

Dave Meinert, owner of Fuzed Music and chief organizer of the annual Capitol Hill Block Party, has been fighting locally for the music scene for many years. Serving on the mayor's Music and Youth Task force and several other advisory boards, Meinert says though the plan is a victory for the music scene, it will inevitably require plenty of hard work by all parties.

"[The plan] means supporting the infrastructure that allows them to make money - which means venues and performance opportunities, recording studios, record stores, radio and press, and rehearsal place," Meinert said in an email. "Next, it's about trying to lower living expenses for musicians - possibly helping subsidize health insurance [and] offering subsidized housing for artists."

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