Fulton County, Georgia to Study Economic Impact of Atlanta’s Music Scene

The cultural impact of Georgia’s creative economy is easy to identify, but local musicians and experts are having a harder time showcasing its economic impact.

Fulton County, which houses a majority of the city of Atlanta, recently announced plans to partner with nonprofit organization Georgia Music Partners and Sound Diplomacy to conduct a study analyzing the economic impact of how much recording studios, performance rehearsal spaces, music venues, music festivals and other music-related businesses affect the county’s finances. Georgia Music Partners president Shachar Oren, Sound Diplomacy U.S. business development director Sherri McConnell and Fulton County chairman Robb Pitts announced the partnership last Thursday at Bravo Oceans Studio.

Sound Diplomacy has worked with government officials in Vancouver, New Orleans and Arkansas to conduct similar studies. McConnell says conducting these studies helps “policy makers [and] other communities that are not naturally engaged with the creative economy [to] suddenly see the value of it.”

The study, which will include interviewing 25 “key stakeholders” who hold various positions in the music industry, is expected to be completed in six months. Oren says Georgia Music Partners hopes to make findings public in order to be transparent about the deficiencies and gaps that currently exist and the action plan for fixing them. The overall goal of the study, he explains, is to collect data that will enable the county to “make future decisions about how to incentivize certain businesses to come into Fulton and how to create sustainable music jobs.”

In 2018, the first-ever tax incentive for Georgia’s music industry went into effect, following behind a tax incentive that brought film and TV productions to the state. Billboard previously outlined the key components of the act, which focused on recording, scoring and touring and rehearsal in the state. But some politicians and music experts have claimed the current spending thresholds are too high for small-scale creative to take advantage of. Oren says they’re working to make adjustments to the act and they hope the data provided by the Sound Diplomacy study will assist them in doing so.

“We tend to agree the [spending] thresholds are higher than we wanted them to be. [And,] there’s other elements of it that needs to be fixed,” Oren says, pointing to early amendments in the film and TV incentive more than a decade ago.

In February, Georgia Music Partners introduced an amendment, HB-347, to the Georgia Music Investment Act. Oren says the amendment would “make the music tax credit transferable and sellable, and increase it to 30% while reducing some of the thresholds so that everybody recording and rehearsing here would get the same benefit that Hollywood is getting [in Georgia].” The current incentive is a 15% refundable tax credit, with an extra 5% granted if the production takes place in areas that have been identified as economically distressed.

At last week’s press conference, Oren, McConnell and Pitts stressed that they hope data from the study will improve legislation, but also encourage major music businesses to invest in Georgia so that locals don’t have to leave the state to pursue a career in music.

Oren says Georgia Music Partners recognizes their vision for the state isn’t new but they’re hoping in 2020 they’ll finally have the data to bring the industry’s long-standing business goals to fruition.

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