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Upstate Recording Studios, local businesses rally in support of music production tax credit in New York


Wed, Jun 1st 2016 04:45 pm

Editorial by New York is Music

Supporters of New York is Music (NYIM), a coalition of more than 200 music-related organizations, gathered today at GCR Audio Recording Studio in Buffalo and Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Rochester to call on the New York State Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to pass the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit (A10083A/ S7485A) and support the creation of good jobs in the music production and recording industry in New York. Tomorrow, the group will continue to rally, this time at Big Blue North in Utica.

"The positive influence of music on our communities, culture and in education is widely recognized, but its economic impact is what makes the music industry especially critical to New York state," said Justin Kalifowitz, co-founder of New York is Music and CEO of Downtown Music Publishing. "More than 100,000 New Yorkers work in music, but their job opportunities are dwindling as cities like Toronto, Los Angeles and Nashville line up to offer new incentives and recruit entrepreneurs in the industry. We urge the legislature to enact this bill and support New York's talented and diverse music workforce."

"New York is an international center of live music, home to thousands of working musicians - and this music production tax credit will help ensure that we remain a global leader in recording, as well," said Tino Gagliardi, president, Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM. "Music is a driver of our vibrant cultural economy, and this credit will fuel the expansion of studios statewide, creating more good jobs and performance opportunities for New York musicians and recording industry workers. I urge all legislators to support recording industry jobs and make sure that the hits keep coming from our great state."

"As someone who has created and recorded music in New York for over 20 years, today it's harder and harder to do, because of the high cost of doing business in our state," said Ben Allison, president of The Recording Academy New York Chapter, and a bassist, producer and recording artist. "Other places have implemented strong tax incentives to spur their local music economies and lure New Yorkers to record there. This has had a chilling effect on our industry and has led to a significant drop in business. The Music Production Tax Credit will alleviate some of these challenges and help us retain our great creative workforce, as well as inspire others to record their music here."

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Martin Golden and Assembly Member Joseph Lentol, will provide a 25 percent tax credit for eligible production-related costs for downstate music businesses and a 35 percent tax credit for production-related costs for upstate music businesses - similar to the state's film tax credit. To be eligible, costs must be related to job creation, including studio rental fees; instrument and equipment rental fees; production session fees for musicians, programmers, engineers and technicians; mixing and mastering services; local transportation; and expenditures directly related to music production and provided at or to the site for the production of music videos. The program is capped at $25 million per year. 

"Coming from the engineering standpoint, working with a team of dedicated professionals, I know the tax incentives would be a big plus," said Justin Rose, head engineer at GCR Audio Recording Studio in Buffalo. "It would help out tremendously on a day-to-day level."

"​Diminished intellectual rights values, rising real estate costs and technological recording advancements ​all contribute to the cost of doing business in New York," said Tony Gross, president of GFI Productions in Ontario. "While ​great music ​can find its way to the surface, without the creative​ and ​nurturing process ​led by qualified producers, engineers, musicians, studios, A&R and proper exposure, ​we will ultimately ​see a decline of unique artistic expression. Much of the infrastructure that made New York the pinnacle of the music industry still exists. The Empire ​State ​Music​ Production​ Tax credit may be the economic stimulus we need to start on that path again."

"New York is a great place to live, but let's face it: It's very expensive to do business here," said Pam Jardieu, studio manager of Big Blue North Recording Studio in Utica. "The music production tax credit helps to level the playing field and allows our small business to compete fairly against places like Los Angeles and Nashville that already have this powerful incentive in place. I also appreciate that it doesn't raise taxes, but instead rewards those who invest in local New York businesses by returning a portion of what they have spent here."

For decades, New York was the center of global music production, but the state's share of the industry has drastically declined in recent decades. In downstate areas, pressure from a rising real estate market and other financial pressures have pushed some of the most storied and successful studios out of the metro area. Upstate, the industry has been largely disaggregated and lacked collective exposure. Most importantly, significant efforts by states and cities, including Toronto, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Nashville, as well as foreign countries, have lured the industry away.

Despite this, New York still has vital infrastructure and human capital that can help keep it competitive: More than 100,000 New Yorkers work in music-related industries and the state is home to historic recording hubs and infrastructure in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, the Hudson Valley and the Catskills. The state boasts world-class universities - such as Bard, Syracuse, Julliard and Eastman - and powerful cultural institutions - such as Carnegie Hall, BAM and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. As with New York's successful film tax credits, the state can play a supportive role in encouraging the growth of the industry and help ensure New York is a place that performers and artists can create music, live, and make a living.

"I'm here to testify that these tax credits really work," said Tim Clark, film commissioner of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission. "We started the film tax credits a few years ago and it has changed the landscape of filming in upstate New York. The music industry parallels what we do and could benefit enormously from these credits, as well."

Last year, the governor and the State Legislature included music production as an eligible industry within the Excelsior Jobs Program. While it was an important symbolic step in recognizing the strategic importance of the music industry in creating jobs, in its current form, not a single company has applied for the Excelsior music production credit. This is because the program is geared toward traditional jobs in manufacturing and finance and was not built to support industries like music production and recording. A version of a bill to adapt the Excelsior Jobs Program to better reflect the music industry passed the State Assembly with bipartisan support last year, but was not voted on by the State Senate.

In March, the Empire State Music Production Tax Credit (A10083A/ S7485A) was introduced in the State Legislature. This tax credit will provide vital support for studio operators and music production companies of all sizes and in every city. This tax credit will function to lighten the financial burden that countless music production companies face by allowing specific expenses, including the salaries of session musicians, to contribute toward a production cost threshold that, if met, would qualify them for tax benefits. With this tax credit, the state is helping create more opportunity for music production companies and studio operators, who will find themselves able to expand, create more projects, hire more session musicians and create more music for all to enjoy.

About NYIM

NYIM's mission is to advance the importance of music in economic development, culture and education in New York, and put New York on a level playing field for music production. The coalition includes a wide range of over 200 organizations, representing more than 100,000 New Yorkers, such as: independent recording labels, The Associated Musicians of Greater New York (Local 802), The Recording Academy, local music venues, and various individual musicians, writers and others.

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