Yesterday, Chicago’s live performance community – including folks in the music and dance scenes – formed a critical mass of protest against the proposed promoter’s ordinance, which goes up for a vote in front of the City Council tomorrow. With all the talk about the influence of blogs and new media, which – despite a couple articles in the Sun-Times and Tribune – is where the real information about this story is coming out, you might be surprised to learn it’s taken this long. But the thing is, when politics is involved, things get muddled. People don’t realize how local government works, even in a political city like Chicago, and to really get to know a story like this, you need to delve into complex language and bureaucracy, and understand how governmental procedures work. More than one person – in the media and otherwise – sounded false alarms about how this ordinance was already a done deal.
But hey, even the city – and its aldermen – don’t seem to know the ordinance very well (see our Q&As with Aldermen Waugespack and Reilly on the TOC blog). The city’s been saying that artists won’t be precluded from promoting their shows, but that’s only if they do nothing but play and don’t deal with any of the “operational responsibility” of the show. Which is pretty much everything else.
We’ve had a couple conversations in the TOC offices about this ordinance, and what’s becoming clear to all of us is that this just doesn’t affect music and clubs, it also affects theater and comedy and any type of live performance in the city. Venue owners are just now figuring out how this might affect them. Non-profit theater owners are being told they’re safe, but that’s not how I’m reading this (and honestly, I’m about as much of an expert as anyone else at this point since I’ve talked to people on and off the record – who should know – who can’t tell me whether my interpretations are correct or not).
There’s also an open question of why this is happening now. I’ve got a couple theories, but if you operate from the point of view that everything that comes out of City Hall these days is about the Olympics, you can probably come up with a theory or two yourself.
In retrospect, maybe we should have done more analysis before now. So today, look for a post from me on the TOC blog about some of the detailed issues that are being overlooked on this ordinance. Also, I’ll be reviewing last night’s Swedefest at Schubas with El Perro del Mar and Lykke Li.