Why Atlanta’s Music Studio Ordinance Should Not Pass
The City of Atlanta is convening to discuss Ordinance 16-O-1454 on Thursday. This ordinance restricts any facility from being used to produce commercially viable sound recordings from existing without “requiring soundproofing and a minimum distance of 500 feet from residential uses.” Not without a special permit. It is evident even from the text of the legislation that no studio engineers were consulted before drafting this ordinance.
I am based in Los Angeles. But I am very much in touch with the Atlanta recording scene. The music world in Atlanta has a special legacy in this country. Unlike New York, Nashville, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles, the beating heart of Atlanta’s music scene has always been a grassroots operation. There are very few major studios in Atlanta, but there are many smaller project studios and home studios. Together, these studios make Atlanta one of the big six cities, and one that will always be regarded with a certain nod — a place where a musical act can come out of their living room and put Atlanta on a worldwide stage.
There is an important distinction between a Noise Ordinance and a Zoning Ordinance. If the sound of Atlanta’s home studios is too loud, there is a volume knob just at arms length. If the existence of these studios were to require proper sound isolation, this would require tens of thousands of dollars and dozens of labor hours to complete. It is simply not plausible for the home recordist to follow the letter of this law and operate a home studio. This will be to the exclusivity of those who are already within means of constructing a studio, and the reality is that if the construction of commercial studios were truly viable there would be more of them.
The world of the music producer is one that starts from meager means. Almost everyone in my generation of music either began in a home studio, or currently operates in one. Even I, as an operator of a million dollar commercial facility, have a studio in my home. Because it is more economical. It allows me to conduct my business in a way that gives people who cannot afford studio fees to still afford: me.
I cannot fathom how detrimental this could be to the music community in Atlanta, and respectively to the music community as a whole. Please consider my words. I would not have the career I have today were it not for my ability to set up a home studio fifteen years ago.
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