Electronic Music Fought the Law and Won... For Now
After multiple deaths at HARD Summer Festival and other electronic music events in recent years, Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis proposed a motion banning electronic music events on county-owned property, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors responded by approving the formation of the Electronic Music Task Force.
Nine meetings were held over the course of several months. After the final gathering, the Task Force presented the board with recommendations to allow electronic music events to take place as long as certain regulations and measures to protect the health and safety of attendees are met.
The Task Force presented a total of 55 recommendations which included requiring four police officers per 1,000 guests, more access to water, an age minimum of 18 and "evidence-based educational and informational materials on alcohol and drug use." The recommendations also called for safe places for guests to sober up for two hours after the last song and more security overall. Finally, these recommendations were prescribed to regular reviews and updates.
The proposal was revised and instead of banning electronic music events altogether it would require rules specifically for these types of events, although some at the final board meeting still supported a total ban. The moment of truth came in the form of a board meeting on March 1, 2016 when a decision was made on whether to pass the motion requiring specific regulations for electronic music events.
Several witnesses spoke at the final board meeting on behalf of what they believed was evidence that electronic music events were inherently and unavoidably harmful, citing such things as "ecstasy kills," "it's the drug of choice for rave goers" and people "passed out on lawns." Fortunately, representatives from the Electronic Music Alliance were able to speak on behalf of our community, shedding light on the reality of situation.
While the decision was made on March 1, the transcription of the final board meeting was recently made public online. Below, you can read transcribed statements from two of those representatives...
Anthony Marinelli has composed for over 80 films, performed at The Hollywood Bowl, was commissioned by the L.A. Philharmonic and worked with Michael Jackson on "Thriller" and Lionel Richie on "Can't Slow Down." He owns property that hosted several MTV Music Awards as well as American Idol and The Bachelor. Marinelli supports all arts and holds season tickets for the many of the city's concert halls and sports arenas.
His address to the board of supervisors went as follows...
"I applaud the accomplishment of our mayor and city council for their effort for positioning L.A. as the world mecca for culture and attracting innovators and uniquely talented people to build the uniquely world-class infrastructure here... I’m here to encourage the city to make the same effort for electronic music.
It’s uniquely important to our youth, and it really is the music of our time for everyone in 2016. It’s an integral part of film and television music today, and it’s leading the way in all genres of popular music and culture. Computers and videos are integral to how we learn and how we do business. Electronic music festivals are an expression and often a snapshot of who we are and where we’re going with this technology. Festivals are an essential part of current artistic expression and a driving force. As a parent and good neighbor, I don’t want to see our teens and young adults having to leave the city limits to gather. We need them here, and we need them safe. Our civic leaders, local businesses, technology companies and donors should seize the opportunity to be represented by these events."
Allan Gelbard is a First Amendment attorney, a member of the Los Angeles League of Arts Board of Directors, an electronic musician and a fan of the electronic dance music culture.
Gelbard's statement at the board meeting made a vital point: The proposed motion would be a violation of the First Amendment.
"Initially, I’d like to compliment the board on constituting the committee to review this issues as opposed to simply responding with a knee-jerk reaction. Initially, my concerns with the proposed ordinance was that by targeting only electronic dance music types of events and allowing other types of festivals to occur, there would be a strong First Amendment constitutional concern there. By applying these rules and recommendations to all different types of festival events, my constitutional concerns are largely alleviated. We believe these types of events can be safe, can be beneficial to society, and that when properly regulated and properly controlled, that they are a benefit to society, not a hindrance. I want to compliment the committee participants. I participated in, I believe 7 of the 9 meetings. They were all very willing to listen, very understanding, responded to actual facts, not innuendo. I think the suggestions the board has before it this morning, while maybe not perfect, are acceptable to all concerned, or should be acceptable to all concerned. I think it’s very important not to let the perfect be the detractor from the good. Certainly there are things that can be done, and the responsible EDM promoters will work with the city and work with the local authorities going forward to make their events safer. But the proposal that’s before the board thus far today goes a long way to making these events better. I note that up on the wall there, the county is founded on free enterprise, cherish and help preserve it. I think that that’s a very applicable statement to be make here. These types of events draw a significant amount of revenue into the county. I think the board should protect them, nurture them, and, in fact, you you might even want to come out to a few of them. I think you’d find yourself having a darn good time. Thank you."
While the motion to force rules on only electronic music events was not passed, the board decided that requirements would be set on a "case-by-case" basis for any event on county-owned property with more than 10,000 people.
Executive director of the Electronic Music Alliance, Janine Jordan, explained that the final case review was a win... kind of. While the decision means that electronic music events can continue to take place in L.A. County, it does make it lawful for the county to discriminate against them in certain instances.
"If we are truly concerned with health and safety, that may not be a bad thing — it will show itself in time," Jordan wrote. "An ordinance still has to be written by County Counsel. And then whatever that becomes, I think it might take some monitoring to ensure that the case by case basis is fair."
You can read more of the board meeting transcription here: http://file.lacounty.gov/bos/transcripts/transcrip...