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The Day The Music Died

The Day The Music Died

According to Councilmember Welsch, 300 people signed up to speak during the public comment period at the council meeting on Tuesday evening. Though only 10 of them were allowed to take the mic, they were all there for the same purpose: to save the music in Music City.

A bill, BL2106, has been proposed to limit the sound pollution downtown. If passed, the directions of speakers, the use of “wedges,” and readings of over 85 decibels during business hours and 70 decibels during off hours would result in a violation; all in the name of public health and safety.

These violations would be enforced not only by MNPD, but also by the Nashville Department of Transportation and the Department of Codes and Building Safety. It’s no wonder those who make their living on Broadway came out in full force. “Nashville musicians are the first ones to step up when there's a time of tragedy… and offer our help for free,” said John Stone, a local legend and regular performer at Kid Rock’s and Tootsies. “We're the last ones considered for an ordinance, or statutes passed that affect us directly.”


As speaker after speaker approached the mic to explain issues with the proposed ordinance, it became clear that BL2106’s authors didn’t take into consideration the numerous ways it could go south. By the end of the 20 allotted minutes, the public comment period sounded like a Green Eggs and Ham bit:

It does not address overall noise pollution,
It does not have a selective enforcement solution,
It does not consider window layouts in bars,
It only targets venues—not pedal taverns or cars,
There are different regulations for night and day,
And exemptions for moneymakers, like Grand Prix and CMA,
If public health and safety are the reasons for this plan,
It seems a bit biased, Sam-I-Am.

Isaac McNaney, a local musician, put the decibel limit into perspective. “Nightclubs seem to be exempt from this and they run about 100 to 120 decibels,” he explained. “A whisper is 30 decibels. A normal conversation is approximately 60 to 65. Most Broadway venues average about 80 decibels without music. The streets of Broadway average about 85 to 90.”

The 85 decibel limit was likely chosen based on recent studies, which state that “8-hour time-weighted average exposures to this level or higher are considered hazardous.” That being said, a Music City with music you’re unable to hear above the general chatter of patrons downtown seems hazardous to tourism. John Taylor—aka Uncle John, entertainment director for​ Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Lounge—gave the council a brief history, reminding them of what Broadway did for Nashville:

Music was dying down here. Music was going to Branson, Missouri. Steve Smith saved Tootsies and had it erected as a historical landmark. If [he] hadn't, they would have torn down all the bars on Broadway then. This is the same feeling that we're getting. Why do you want to close the music that brought millions and millions and millions of dollars of revenue into the city?


Speaking of Steve Smith, this poses the same question we brought up last Friday: What sort of people do these politicians want in the city of Nashville? Freddie O’Connell, a native Nashvillian and a sponsor on this bill, has made it clear: "If every place owned by Steve Smith closed, the city would be safer, Broadway would be less obnoxious, and the beer would be cheaper." The point here is not in defense of Smith, it's that O’Connell, and others like him, have no issue strategically throwing their political weight around to favor the “kinds of people” they’d like to “attract to this city."

Stone said it best:

Can you imagine going to see Beyoncé or the Rolling Stones and get in there and listen to them turned down to about 85 decibels? You’d basically be sitting in your seat just listening, instead of doing what you really do at a concert, and that's feeling it with your entire body. That's what people come here to Nashville to do.

In the “new Nashville,” the question is: do you make the cut, or will they cut you off?