June is always a busy month in halls and backrooms of New York state and city government. The legislative session in Albany comes to a frenzied close with the “big ugly” and the next fiscal year budget is agreed to in City Hall. Months of advocacy, hours of phone calls, countless internal and external meetings, many press conferences and multiple Amtrak delays come down to a flurry of last-minute activity, with bills and agreements made in the final hours and minutes. As Allegro goes to press, there is still much that needs to be decided, with musicians’ interests riding in the balance. These decisions will be made in the coming days and then analyzed in the weeks to follow. But what do we know now? A tax credit may soon be available for music producers in New York State!
In the early afternoon of Thursday June 17, the State Assembly passed bill A10083A, which was followed a few hours later by passage of S7485A in the Senate. Together, the passage of these two bills meant that the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit was on its way to Governor Cuomo’s desk for signature or veto.
What is the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit and how did we get here?
NY is Music – a coalition that includes recording industry advocates, studio owners, musicians and Local 802 – has been working for the last two years to create a music tax credit that would respond to the unique needs of the music industry. Music production isn’t like steel, technology, food or car manufacturing, all of which can be analyzed by the amount of product and the number of jobs they create. Music is nuanced, dependent on artistic vision and virtuosity. Some projects require many musicians, technicians and engineers, or lots of equipment and support resources. Others have a much smaller footprint, requiring just a few musicians, little gear and one producer. Clearly, not all productions can be treated the same way.
To serve the industry’s unique needs and to help stop the rapid reduction of recording work in New York State, the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit – sponsored by Senator Golden (Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Gravesend) and Assemblyman Lentol (Greenpoint, Williamsburg) – will provide qualifying producers with a 25 percent tax credit on qualifying expenses in downstate New York, or 35 percent tax credit for eligible production related costs in upstate New York.
We were adamant that the fees paid to musicians on a production be one of the qualifying expenses, as musician fees can be the primary expense for small productions with a relatively minor financial footprint. After advocating to have this language included in the bill, we attended press conferences, spoke to press, met with our elected leaders and their staffs about the industry’s needs, and worked with our allies across New York State, including the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and our colleagues at AFM Local 14 in Albany, AFM Local 66 in Rochester and AFM Local 92 in Buffalo. These efforts, paired with the leadership and strong partnership of Assemblyman Lentol and Senator Golden, helped get the language written, the bills through committees and, ultimately, the final versions passed in both chambers.
If the enormously successful film production tax credit serves as any indication, tax credits like these can prove extremely beneficial for those who qualify, providing financial breathing room that can help record producers take creative risks, grow, create new projects and hire more musicians. The potential impact of this tax credit, which will be capped at $25 million, could provide the momentum needed for the industry to once again establish itself as a major recording capital of the world. That’s good news for both music lovers and musicians.
What are we reminded of this time of year? Politics and legislation matter!
Politics and legislation affect everyone – your family, your community, your friends and your careers. It is imperative that musicians aren’t ambivalent to the goings on in our halls of government. New York State and New York City are both cultural capitals of the world, but if we are to ensure that the most diverse, talented and creative musicians can afford to live and raise a family here, we must stay engaged with politics and public policy.
You can help. Will you join me at rallies and volunteer for politicians you care about? Let me know! Can you contribute to our Tempo 802 Political Action Committee? This fund, split between a federal fund (for national representatives) and a state fund (for local and state representatives), makes it possible for Local 802 to support and partner with elected officials and government allies as we work to champion the priorities, rights and goals of musicians and working people at all levels. Please donate at www.local802afm.org/about/benefits-services/political-action-fund
We are only as strong as we are united, only as effective as we are engaged. The legislative session might be over, but campaign season is in full swing and the next legislative session will be right around the corner. Let’s get to work. Okay. What’s next?