A seven-year campaign to establish a tax incentive for Georgia's music industry is coming closer to reality. The House of Representatives (157-11) and state Senate (46-7) voted last night (March 30) in favor of the Georgia Music Investment Act (House Bill 155), which is aimed at creating more than 10,000 new job opportunities and boosting the state's overall economy. The pending legislation -- the first targeted tax incentive for music in Georgia -- now awaits Gov. Nathan Deal's review and signature.
"Simply put, it's a job creator," says Phil Tan. The Atlanta-based, Grammy Award-winning music/audio engineer's credits includes projects by Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Coldplay and Ludacris. "Local industry folks have worked very hard for this," he continues, "knowing how important it was to get this done. This is a very important step."
HB 155 puts Georgia's music industry, which currently generates $3.7 billion in annual revenue, on more equal footing with the successful tax credit programs already in place for the state's film, TV and video game industries. The pending bill targets three key initiatives: live productions, recording and scoring. The goal is to retain and create jobs while also attracting more productions and business development.
Kristian Bush, one-half of the country music duo Sugarland, wears several hats as a singer, songwriter, producer, musician and owner of The Projector Room studio in Decatur, Georgia. For him, the passing of HB 155 not only means more music companies and associated industries wanting to do business in Georgia. It also means providing needed jobs for the "unbelievably talented" students graduating from the state's highly regarded music programs at the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University, among colleges. "Atlanta has a similar music infrastructure as Nashville," he explains. "It's just that everybody, once they get here, moves to Nashville because there's nowhere for them to work."
Beginning in 2018, a 15-20 percent refundable tax incentive will be offered for projects recorded or scored in Georgia and for tours that rehearse and start in the state. To qualify, a production company must meet a minimum threshold of $500,000 for live performance rehearsals, $250,000 for stand-alone scoring projects (aggregate in a year) and $100,000 (aggregate in a year) for recorded music performances. If the production takes place in lesser developed Tier 1 and Tier 2 counties, it can qualify for the additional 5 percent credit.
In mid-March, HB 155 passed the House with higher thresholds than originally proposed and a 25% refundable credit (157-11). The percentage was changed in the Senate to a 15 percent credit with an added 10-day rehearsal minimum. It passed the Senate earlier this week (46-7). However, Georgia Music Partners -- a chief supporter of the incentive -- sought to revise some amendments before the legislative session ended at midnight. Those amendments included a return to 25 percent and the reduction to a seven-day rehearsal minimum. The final result for 2018 is a 15-20 percent incentive with a seven-day minimum for rehearsals.
"Georgia's Musical Investment Act is the missing link needed to help bolster our entertainment production ecosystem," says Mala Sharma, Georgia Music Partner's legislative affairs chair. "It is our hope that it will return Georgia to its rightful place of prominence as a leader in creating innovative music for the world to enjoy."
In addition to the The Recording Academy's Atlanta chapter, Georgia Music Partners was joined by more than 200 industry supporters from within and outside the state. Among them: Zac Brown's Southern Ground, RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America), NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants), AES (Audio Engineering Society) and the Guild of Music Supervisors.
For studios and creatives "all the way from pop culture to orchestras," concludes Bush, "there's now a clear message that's being sent on their behalf: Georgia is a music state. Not just a music-friendly state or a state that exports a lot of music. It's where you can also go to create it."