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Lawmaker Seeks to Collect Personal Info of Live Acts in Philadelphia

Philadelphia
Jose Fuste Raga/Getty Images

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania skyline.

A Philadelphia city council member’s bill that would require music venues to obtain contact information of performers and create a registry of promoters has been met with opposition. 

Councilman Mark Squilla is attempting to amend a section of the "Special Assembly Occupancies" code in such a way that would further regulate the application process for various entertainment-minded events and increase certain fees. He says the primary goal of the bill is to close a loophole in current legislation that has allowed venues to operate without a special assembly license (SAOL). However, opponents believe there are elements of the proposal that amount to an unnecessary invasion of privacy.

The bill would require venues to gather full names, addresses and phone numbers of "all performance acts" scheduled for a promoted or special event. A "performance act" is defined in the bill as "any person or group of persons engaged in the act of singing, disc jockeying, rapping, dancing, playing musical instruments, and/or acting for an audience or group of patrons." The designation also applies to the presentation of streaming or recorded audio/video, whether or not it has been properly licensed (presumably though BMI or ASCAP).

In addition to acquiring artist or performer contact information, venue operators would be required to update the police if there are "substantial changes" in the nature of the event.

Opposition has been vocal on social media, with residents labeling Squilla a "dingus" (and much worse), and calling his legislation potentially detrimental to the music scene. "You're not closing a loophole, your [sic] passively aggressively obtaining information for the police," wrote one Facebook commenter. "Why? In case of violence at performances? Violence at shows is 99 percent because of audience members, not performers. All this will do is destroy the music scene in Philly -- one of the few positive reputations we have! It will kill the smaller venues in the city. With that, you'll lose tax revenue; corporate tax from the venues and wage tax from the staff. Whatever your motivation, it is severely dangerous to the Philadelphia music industry."

A petition posted to Change.org warned the bill "will have a serious chilling effect" on the city’s live music scene, with touring acts potentially skipping the city rather than submit their personal info. The petition’s author, Larissa Sapko, writes that there is "no reason for the Philadelphia Police to possess a registry containing the personal information of thousands of people, simply because they are musicians. Not only is it unnecessary and likely to cause a massive administrative backlog, it’s a gross violation of our civil liberties."

The petition calls for the city council to reject the bill, which is currently in committee and open to amendments before a vote. At press time, it has 11,360 signatures towards a goal of 15,000. 

In a statement released on Wednesday, Squilla said the contact information would only be shared with city officials "should the need arise" and that a registry of performers is not being created. "This provision is not intended to restrict artistic expression or any kind of entertainment but rather is aimed at addressing public safety and quality of life issues," he said.

The bill does however propose the required registration of all promoters in the city. A promoter is any person who sponsors and produces an event, though exceptions include movie screenings, theater, and planners of weddings, parties and fundraisers, among others.

A Democrat, Squilla has represented the First District since 2011. Neighborhoods in his district include Chinatown, Fishtown, Kensington, Northern Liberties and Port Richmond. A full copy of the bill can be found here.

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