Exempt Live Music at Small Venues From Cleveland's 8% Admissions Tax

Live music is important to the history, culture, and community of Cleveland, Ohio.  Live music offers opportunities for musicians to hone their craft and for audiences to learn about, listen to, and appreciate various forms of music.  A city rich with concert venues of various sizes that support a wide-variety of musicians offers residents and visitors increased opportunities to experience the power and pleasure of live music.  These venues enrich our community and serve as catalysts for economic development.

Cleveland is recognized as a distinctive center for music, from the Rock-and Roll Hall of Fame to the Cleveland Orchestra, where a spirit of innovation continually renews a thriving music industry, both economically and culturally.  The vitality and the culture of Cleveland are greatly enhanced by our ability to attract and keep local live music venues.

Live music venues are part of a business sector that has greater expenses, regulatory requirements, and liabilities than the average business.  Cleveland’s 8% admission tax creates a significant burden on these small venues because this surtax is imposed without regard to the cost of paying musicians to perform.  The surtax increases operating losses at small venues, reduces compensation for local musicians, and causes national and regional touring acts to skip Cleveland in favor of other cities that do not impose an 8% tax.

Providing an admission tax exemption creates a valuable incentive for investors to open and operate well-managed music venues.  This exemption will help foster a healthy business environment, a vibrant cultural life, and bolster economic development throughout the city. 

Ask that the City of Cleveland support, not discourage live music. Encourage Cleveland City Council Members and the Mayor to support draft ordinance 1492-11 exempting live music at small music venues from the City’s admission tax.

We, the undersigned, are writing to encourage you to support draft ordinance 1492-11, providing for an exemption from the admission tax for qualifying live music venues. 

We recognize that live music at small music venues contribute to the life of the city, offering musicians the opportunity to hone their craft, and for audiences to learn about, listen to, and appreciate various forms of music.  We also recognize that small music venues serve as catalysts for economic development and neighborhood revitalization by attracting new businesses to their neighborhoods that create new jobs and generate additional tax revenue for the city.  A vibrant live music scene helps retain current residents and attract others to move to the city.   

We encourage you to build on the city’s existing public policy of exempting performing arts from the city’s admissions tax, and extend that exemption to live music at small venues. Cleveland’s 8% admission tax creates a significant burden on these small venues because this surtax is imposed without regard to the cost of paying musicians to perform.  The surtax increases operating losses at small venues, reduces compensation for local musicians, and causes national and regional touring acts to skip Cleveland in favor of other cities that do not impose an 8% tax.

We encourage you to act quickly to leverage the positive impact this legislation can have with the national media when they come to Cleveland to report on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in April of this year. 

The Community Partnership for Arts and Culture study “Remix Cleveland” demonstrated that Cleveland is a national leader in the music industry, accounting for almost $1 billion a year in economic activity.  You have the opportunity to show the rest of the country that Cleveland’s leaders are at the forefront of movement recognizing the arts as a tool for economic development.  Please support draft ordinance 1492-11 and exempt Cleveland's small live music venues from the city's 8% admissions tax.

Thank you for your consideration,

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