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Atlanta Rotary panel: Georgia should do more to support its diverse music industry

By Maria Saporta

Georgia needs to extend the same kind of tax credits to the music industry as it has the film and video industry.

That was one of the themes that three veterans of Georgia’s music industry share with members of the Rotary Club of Atlanta at the Monday luncheon.

The members of the panel included:

Joel Katz, a high-powered Atlanta-based entertainment attorney with Greenberg-Traurig, has been a major player in Georgia’s music scene for decades;

Dallas Austin, a songwriter, music producer, filmmaker, movie producer and musician who helped turn Atlanta into a center for urban music through the hip hop label LaFace and working with a number of local and national acts; and

Chuck Leavell, a Georgia tree farmer and keyboardist who has played with the Allman Brothers, Eric Clapton, George Harrison and has been touring with the Rolling Stones for three decades.

Austin said that when Georgia sweetened its tax credits for the film and video industry, business in the state blossomed. “Keep the money here in Atlanta,” Austin said.

But it’s a different story when it comes to the music industry.

“Tax credits do not yet apply to music,” Katz said, adding that other states, such as Louisiana, have passed incentives to lure and grow their music industry. “They need a compelling reason to stay here.”

To read a recent SaportaReport guest column on this issue from Tammy Hurt, co-president of Georgia Music Partners, click here.

Katz said Georgia could extend the kind of success that it has enjoyed in film, video and digital entertainment by including tax credits for music studios, recording and through the creation of a music technology fund.

Katz listed a multitude of musicians with Georgia ties — Ray Charles, Robert Shaw, Johnny Mercer, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Kenny Rogers, the B-52s, REM, Usher, Widespread Panic, Collective Soul, Trisha Yearwood, Dallas Austin, Chuck Leavell, among others.

“Georgia and Atlanta – it’s a great entertainment center. We have fabulous artists who live here and record music here,” Katz said. “This is our heritage. It’s extraordinarily valuable to our state.”

Leavell said that unlike Nashville or other music centers, Georgia’s musical offerings have been diverse — soul, country, rock, hip hop and classical.

The panelists also bemoaned the fact that the Georgia Music Hall of Fame that was in Macon has closed.

“Unfortunately, the Hall of Fame is no longer in Macon,” Katz said. “A group of us are trying to bring the Hall of Fame to Atlanta.”

Katz added that he has met with Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on that possibility.

“I think it was a travesty that the Hall of Fame was shut down,” Leavell said. “We need a physical place to celebrate Georgia’s music and its rich musical heritage.”

The luncheon program, which was moderated by Ken Stewart, the former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, was atypical for Rotary. Before and during the lunch, music from Georgia filled the room. Also, Leavell led the Rotarians in the “Star Spangled Banner” with him on the piano.

Although this wasn’t the normal business fare for Rotary, the panelists were quick to let the audience know that they bring business to Georgia.

“All of this comes to our city and touches many of your businesses — real estate, insurance, restaurants,” Katz said.

“And automobiles,” chimed in Austin while looking straight at Rotarian and automobile dealer Steve Hennessy. The point was made.

Maria Saporta

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.



  1. mariasaporta September 20, 2011 10:35 pm

    Ken Stewart, former commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development who is now with Georgia Tech, sent me this email saying it was okay for me to post it as a comment.

    From Ken Stewart: “The business of music in Georgia is a $3.8 billion industry employing almost 20,000 of our State’s citizens. There is little standing in the way of us taking market share in the music business from cities like New Orleans, Nashville and even NY and LA. We have the infrastructure and the talent already. If we use the film/movie business experience in the past few years as an example, we know companies will come and grow in Georgia when competitive incentives are offered for creative content expenditures. I can’t imagine Georgia not being just as successful with creative content expenditures in music.”Report

  2. The Baltimore Nightlife October 13, 2011 10:47 am

    The music industry are now slowly being killed by piracy, I support them by buying their songs legally.Report

  3. Baltimore Nightlife October 25, 2011 9:20 am

    They must do it to improve the status of the diverse music industry. if it gonna become more successful, we can expect more great diverse music to come.Report

  4. MelanieMcElroyMcNally January 13, 2012 1:35 pm

    It would be really nice to have music industry jobs available here in Atlanta that were not just urban music.Report


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