Jun 10, 2022 - News

Inside Metro's entertainment industry debate

Illustration of Nashville City Hall with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Metro has squandered the last decade's progress of collaboration with Nashville's growing entertainment industry, city officials say, leading to a series of new proposals to get back on track.

Why it matters: New problems swirl around Nashville's creative community. A lack of affordable housing for musicians and a preservation crisis putting music venues and recording studios in danger of redevelopment are perhaps the two biggest challenges.

Flashback: In 2009, then-Mayor Karl Dean created the Music City Music Council, an advisory panel of top executives and artists. It was a first-of-its-kind effort for Metro to partner with the music industry on economic development.

  • That initiative helped lure music industry jobs and conferences. But over the last four years, the city experienced three rapid mayoral transitions and the music council stopped meeting. It is now effectively defunct.
  • Metro also kickstarted the local film industry about a decade ago, investing tax incentives for the production of the TV show "Nashville." While the show helped fuel tourism, the city failed to build momentum for the film industry off of that investment.

Driving the news: In his recent budget proposal, Mayor John Cooper included a division — which would begin as one staff member — within his office to focus on entertainment industry issues.

  • Metro Councilmember Jeff Syracuse also passed a resolution calling for the reformation of the music council and for a new strategic plan about how the city and industry can work together. In his day job, Syracuse works for the music rights organization BMI.
  • And Metro Councilmember Joy Styles has pitched a plan to create an entertainment commission — legislation she's been working on for over a year.

State of play: Cooper's administration plans to convene a retreat for a few dozen music industry professionals to solicit feedback on policies the city should pursue to address these issues.

  • "Mayor Cooper cares deeply about supporting and protecting the artists, musicians, filmmakers and entire creative and entertainment communities here in Music City, and is proud to create this dedicated office focused on exactly that goal," Cooper aide Ben Eagles tells Axios.

What she's saying: "It's really important to have a city, state and industry relationship. That's really how we can affect change," Styles tells Axios. "We're not harnessing this the way we should. We're leaving money on the table."

What we're watching: There is disagreement on the best path forward. Styles wants the commission she's proposing to be a standalone agency, pointing to the struggles the music council faced after mayoral turnover.

  • Cooper and Syracuse prefer a plan that houses the new staffer within the mayor's office.
  • Styles' legislation is up for a critical vote in July.

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