Ben Speaks on the Steps of City Hall in Support of Music Production

Today, I was invited to speak at a press conference on the steps of NYC's City Hall in support of the Music Proaction Tax Credit, which would provide support to recording projects produced in NY, my home state. Here's a transcript:

Ben Speaks at City Hall, with Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Senator Marty Golden, 7/12/2016

"For over a century, the heart and soul of New York has been its music scene. Whether it’s live music or recorded music, New York’s place as the center of the recording universe is being threatened. It still boasts the largest and densest population of world-class musicians and creative professionals of every conceivable style and genre. But the fact is that NY has become a difficult place to do business and the time has come for Governor Cuomo to help us do something about it before the situation worsens.

My name is Ben Allison. I’m a jazz bassist, composer, recording artist and educator. I’m one of the thousands of work-a-day professional musicians who call NY their home.  I am also the President of the NY Chapter of the Recording Academy. You probably know the Recording Academy as the folks who bring you the Grammys. But the Academy also does great work in the areas of education, supporting musicians in need, music preservation, research and advocacy. We’re a membership-based organization comprised of music creators – namely songwriters, recording, mixing and mastering engineers, instrumentalists, vocalists, arrangers and producers – in short, the professionals who create the music we all love.

As a full-time musician and full-time New Yorker, I’ve witnessed firsthand the huge drop in music production that New York has experienced over the past decade. Aggressive programs and financial incentives from other states and cities have lured away thousands of our creative professionals. And it seems that with each passing month another historic recording studio in New York closes its doors.

How is it that many of New York’s homegrown artists no longer view the Empire State as their “musical home” when it comes to recording? And the exodus of talent – from songwriters and performers to world-class studio musicians, engineers and technicians – is continuing at an alarming pace. This is troubling because it hurts our identity as a global center for music and art, and it also undermines the vast interdependent web of businesses and artists who call NY their home and who, collectively are a vital part of our state’s economy.

The legislation sponsored by Senator Golden and Assemblyman Lentol sends a strong message that New York is prepared to reclaim its rightful place as the music capital of the world. After all, we are still home base for people like Billy Joel, Alicia Keyes, Jay Z, Wynton Marsalis, Pinchas Zuckerman, Philip Glass, Nile Rogers, Angela Hunte (who wrote our new “adopted state anthem” Empire State Of Mind), Carly Simon, the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Opera, the Buffalo Philharmonic, Julliard, Eastman, The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music, Jazz at Lincoln Center and hundreds of clubs, studios, performing arts centers and cultural institutions from Buffalo to Montauk, not to mention the thousands of musicians, engineers, and producers who live, work and create here. Yet those of us who wish to continue to record in NY are witnessing the demise of the very eco-system that we need to create our art and sustain our businesses.

To be clear – this legislation does not provide the stars of the music world with a tax break. What it does is create a partnership between the music recording business and the State of New York – a partnership that helps to level the playing field and make NY, once again, a cost-effective place to make records. There is only one New York – and we intend to uphold our side of the partnership in restoring its position as number one in the music-recording universe. 

I’d like to end on a personal note: I love our state. It’s my and my family’s home. NY shaped me into the musician I am today. I’m just one of thousands of musicians who call NY their home – musicians who are each connected to their own communities, who are trying to make a living, who, collectively are the backbone of our important music economy and who help shape our cultural identity.

So, to my colleagues who were lured away, I say “get ready to pack your bags. New York is open for business.”"