BREAKING NEWS: Amplified Noise Amendment Act Withdrawn For Summer

With the DC City Council now adjourned until September, the music community can breath  a sigh of relief. The anti-busking Amplified Noise Amendment Act of 2018 (B22-0839), which opponents feared would come up for a vote on Tuesday, was instead withdrawn for the summer break. The "emergency bill" threatened to impose strict penalties for amplified audio that could be heard 100 feet away. As it read, "repeat offenders given a one time warning by law enforcement are subject to a fine not to exceed $300 or imprisonment not to exceed 10 days, or both."

Rallying under the #SoundproofDC slogan, artists and activists held a press conference on Monday outside the Gallery Place metro stop, replete with street performances by some of DC's regular buskers. They called on the City Council to protect the culture of busking in DC, and it appears those please may not have fallen on entirely deaf ears, if only temporarily. Kymone Freeman, co-founder of We Act Radio and one of the organizers of Monday's press conference, encouraged people to "Celebrate the small victory," but cautioned that they should then "get ready for round 2 in the fall."

Reactions from the Music Community:

Dior Ashley Brown (the dAB Band):

This is even bigger than Bill B22-0839. These are quiet threats to the preservation of DC Culture that some hope go unnoticed, leaving artists unaware putting us in compromise. Not properly informing the creative community to which this directly effects, creates a greater systemic issue such as potential artist criminalization and deficits in income, WE too contribute to the city’s tax dollars. Imagine showing up to work one day and receiving a $300 fine and or jail time because you weren’t informed of the new policy changes? You loose money and days at work. Creatives/Buskers are not trying to make residing in Chinatown or other areas unbearable. WE want to hear the issues of the residents and share in the concerns, but with a fighting chance to do so, we vote at elections and add to the economy. Artists look forward to contributing to the city’s evolution, and are conveniently commissioned by city government, businesses for event or marketing purposes but fighting for the artist's cause is not always reciprocated. With the action of this bill we face artist displacement again, another issue in the city that continues to go unresolved.

Elijah Jamal Balbed (The JoGo Project):

Although the fight isn’t over, I’m relieved to hear the emergency status of the bill was removed. It was an enlightening experience joining Aaron Myers and the rest of the DC Jazz Lobby (also known as #ReformanceArtists) and getting a meaningful dialogue going with the council. It’s clear to us that there was little effort on the council members’ part to reach out to the busking community to get their side of the story, so it was especially gratifying to go downtown on Monday and fight on behalf of our community. I hope our lobbying had an impact in swaying the council members’ votes the right direction.

Gordon Sterling (Gordon Sterling and the People, Nappy Riddem, Gordon Sterling Presents: The Gypsysally's Jam):

Obviously it's a huge win for us in the immediate, but it's not at all over. By a long shot. Now it's time, I think, to not sit on our laurels, but really rally the troops to get all of our info in order, all our points in order, get ready to bring them to the table when this comes up again in the future, which it will. I can also respect the residents wanting their quiet and privacy, I understand all of that. But really, they knew this was a city. I think also to live in the part of the city that they do, like the U Street Corridor - which I believe is where most of the noise is coming from - they also must have realized where they were moving to. Realized that this was a cultural hot spot, part of that made it appealing for them to come here. But now they have to realize that this bill would strip away a lot of that culture that has made DC what it is. And we can't allow that to happen. I'm sure some middle ground can be met, but every part of the city has been hit by gentrification and it's not right for them to gentrify the soul right out of DC. And right now the music is very much the soul of the city. Or what's left of it. So, tough battle ahead. Awesome victory today, but they can't take our street performances away. It affects too much of the culture and that moves right into the clubs, moves right into everything. So all artists - I myself am not a street musician, but I'm very much affected by anything that affects culture and arts in the city. So, we've got a long fight ahead. Let's get ready.

Neel Singh (Drop Electric, Staycation, Skaii):

$300 fine or 10 days in jail? This is a war on anyone who isn’t rich, and is all part of the continued war against Black culture in D.C. If you don’t want loud music around you, don’t move into a vibrant city.  The fact that they tried to pass this on an “Emergency” basis was alarming. But we have been and will continue to use our voices to be heard and are working together using modern technology and platforms. Your voice is louder than you think.

Christopher Naoum, (Listen Local First)

Listen Local First is pleased to hear that the Emergency Legislation regarding the Amplified Noise Amendments Act of 2018 has been withdrawn. We hope that members of the council and their staff now know that there are advocates and an organized front that support the preservation of DC culture and the rights of musicians in the district. If the council would like to move forward with any version of this legislation they should make sure to consult with Listen Local First, One Love Massive, We Act Radio, The Capitol Hill Jazz Foundation and others before doing so.

The advocates for the music community are more knowledgeable about the issues facing the music community, the rights of individual musicians and similar legislation implemented in cities around the country than anyone on the council. It would be wise for the Council to defer to these experts and professionals within our ranks before moving forward again.

Jay Mills (The Real Jay Mills, TheGreenLife)

It is so inspiring to see how when we pay attention and participate in legislation we can effect the change we want to see. Constant vigilance, collective work, and responsibility allowed a grass roots movement to halt the wheels of injustice. We must continue to be a presence, and push for the changes we want to see.

Aaryon Myers:

Today, the council saw that when the music community is engaged, we will participate. There should never be legislation crafted targeting a community without their input. I think this is an awesome opportunity for us to come together not only discussing buskers & outside performances, but artists housing, fair pay/fair play, and the city being intentional about further carrying out issues outlined in the cultural plan.

Patrick Cheng (Nappy Riddem, Shamans of Sound):

Legalize it!

Graham Smith-White (202Creates Resident Artist, The Infinite Goodness, The Sunrise Review):

A group of us took the time to visit each Councilmember's office and present reasoned and supported arguments against the emergency amendment. It shows that engaging the government as advocates for ourselves pays off and gets our interests heard. It is up to us to hold our leaders accountable.

Jeff Conway-Gutierrez (Toad Head)

An amendment of this kind serves to do one thing. Silence. We will not be silenced.

Molly Ruland (One Love Massive)

Culture is being criminalized by the same people who used the vibrant fabric of this city to appeal to developers and new residents. They use the creative community to sell the city and then effectively push us right out.

Larry Joseloff (Jerry Tripsters, Covered with Jam, Debonis Allen Band, DC Mystery Cats):

We live in a society that lacks personal connections. We walk through a city with thousands of people each with a story to tell and knowledge to share and we stare at our screens shunning true human contact and connection. Music is pure, true, from the heart, and happening real time. People are craving this personal connection and true experience -- and music delivers. Filling the streets with sound and stories makes our city and our residents richer in the most important ways. It makes us stronger and provides us with a more beautiful life, experiences, and creates personal connections.

As for myself? I'm a Ward 2 resident who was born in DC and loves this music community, so obviously I have an opinion. Will Urquhart (DC Music Review):

The district should be finding ways to get more money into the hands of the people who make our culture vibrant instead of finding ways to take their money, or worse, their equipment. I believe there is a musical Renaissance happening in DC right now, and we are blessed with some of the greatest venues and artists in the world,, but we cannot allow anyone to chip into that. Culture has a way of cascading, as do attacks on it. I am extremely pleased that our City Council slowed their roll on this legislation, but I hope when they come back in the fall it will be to write legislation that reinforces our music community and to fight any legislation that attacks performers.

Pictures from Monday's #SoundproofDC Press Conference:

About the author

Will Urquhart

Will Urquhart is a television and radio producer, concert taper, and audiovisual expert. His focus is on webcast production and projection visuals for political organizations and bands. Will's work has been featured in various publications such as NPR, Live For Live Music, Live Music Daily, and many more.