ATLANTA — Georgia’s film industry took off after the General Assembly significantly boosted the state tax credit for film and television productions in 2008.
The industry’s annual economic impact has fallen from a relatively paltry $242 million the year before lawmakers increased the credit bet to $4.4 billion last year.
Now, Peach State performers and music producers are urging lawmakers to give them the same boost by watering down the incentives the state offers their industry.
“We see what’s happened with the motion picture industry,” Chuck Leavell, the Georgia-based keyboardist for The Rolling Stones and formerly for The Allman Brothers Band, told members of a legislative review committee. “You’re going to attract all kinds of artists…if we can get those incentives in place.”
The Joint Georgia Music Heritage Study Committee began a series of meetings Sept. 7 looking for ways to grow the music industry in a state with a rich and diverse musical history, including the Allman Brothers, Otis Redding, Little Richard, James Brown, Johnny Mercer, Ray Charles and Jason Aldean.
The General Assembly passed a law in 2017 providing tax incentives for music productions, including live and recorded performances.
But the tax credit is due to expire at the end of this year unless lawmakers renew it.
A bill introduced during this year’s legislative session called for lowering the expense threshold to qualify for the credit from the current $500,000 for a live performance to $100,000 and from $250,000 for a taped performance to $50,000.
House Bill 1330 also proposed doubling the value of the tax credit from 15% of a production company’s eligible expenses to 30%.
The bill passed the House in March, but died in the state Senate, sidelined by other business in what was a particularly busy flurry of election-year lawmaking.
Entertainment lawyer Steve Weizenecker, who has been involved in efforts to push through the film and music industry tax credits, said he expects supporters to try again. get the bill passed in the 2023 session starting in January. He said he was optimistic about his chances.
“Everyone, regardless of your political stripe, loves music and wants to see it grow,” Weizenecker said. “It’s easier to sell on Capitol Hill.”
The launch meeting of the study committee was held in Mâcon, which benefits from a particularly dynamic music scene. The town is home to the Big House Museum, where The Allman Brothers Band lived in its heyday in the 1970s; a restored Capricorn Studios, where the band recorded; the Otis Redding Museum and the Little Richard House.
Among the city’s performance halls, the Macon City Auditorium has just had a $10 million makeover and the construction of a 10,000-seat amphitheater is underway.
“Music brings us together. What brings us together also makes money,” Alex Morrison, director of planning and public spaces for Macon-Bibb County, told committee members. “We hope we can be an example to the rest of the state of how we use music to grow our economy.”
Leavell said the strengthened tax credit would help Georgia attract music producers and performers who might otherwise be lured elsewhere.
“We know the competition, what’s going on in Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Tennessee,” he said. “We have to at least be even with these guys.”
Leavell and others also asked committee members to support the creation of a state-level music director or commissioner who could promote the music industry full-time in the same way as Lee. Thomas, director of the Georgia Film Office, defends the film industry.
“If all they’re thinking about is how to grow music in Georgia, it’s going to grow a lot more,” said Julie Wilkerson, executive director of the Macon Arts Alliance.
The study committee will hold its next meeting in Athens, another epicenter of Georgian musical heritage, from REM and B-52s to Widespread Panic.
This story is available through a partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.