Wait, Home Studios are Outlawed in Nashville?

In another stunning edition of ‘Wait, Whaaat?’ news, it turns out that owning a home recording studio can get you in a lot of trouble with Nashville’s government. According to a provision in Metro Nashville’s zoning laws, owning and operating a home recording studio is illegal … in a city affectionately known as “Music City.”

Wait, what?

This, my musically talented friends, is irony. Not the kind of irony that’s actually a coincidence, or just weird. This is a truly ironic legal quirk for a city internationally known as a music industry capital.

The ban on home studios is part of a ‘blanket ban’ on home-based businesses serving patrons from said property. It’s not uncommon to find laws against residential zones being used for commercial reasons. That’s not terribly weird. Someone shouldn’t be able to start, say, a daycare center in their basement or sell home-brewed beer from their backyard. Those are regulatory and safety concerns that should totally be addressed.

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However, it’s because of the broadness of this ban that makes it hard for perfectly credible, and safe, home businesses to operate. According to Census figures, more than half of all businesses in the US are based in a home. In California, the legislature just made it legal for citizens to sell everything from organic cupcakes to homemade jam from their home kitchen.

So, why can’t Nashville’s many, many musicians be legally allowed to record in their own homes?

For some citizens, there’s a concern that increased traffic and lack of parking could lose a neighborhood’s “residential character.” But that feels more like a, ‘old man yells at cloud’ kind of concern. I mean, do you think these home studios are going to generate Walmart-like business? I don’t think so.

Citizens and home studio owners hope that newly-elected Mayor Megan Barry, who unsuccessfully tried to reverse the policy with legislation back in 2012 when she was on the Metro Council, will revisit the issue now that she’s in a position of power.

Producers who own home studios are in a pickle of a situation. These aren’t rebels simply looking to break a law for breaking-a-law’s sake, these are people trying to support their homes and families. “Well, why don’t you use a commercial recording studio? That’s legal.” Well, because the current trend in the music industry has encouraged home recording. Improved recording technology has made owning the best of the best equipment far more affordable.

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If you can work from home, why wouldn’t you?

If a producer obeys the law, they can’t support their family. If they support their family, they could be penalized. This isn’t an uncommon story across this country. We hear this time and time again. Because of a weird law, someone doing something completely harmless in their own homes is illegal.

That doesn’t make sense, and neither does this weird zoning law. When you’re self-employed in the music industry, you have to hustle your ass off and promote yourself through social media, websites, or whatever else helps advertise your brand. Why is recording from home any different?

Nobody in the music industry should be in a situation where they can’t grow and expand because of some stupid, weird law that makes no sense. In a city that’s known all over the world as “Music City,” the government should be doing everything it can to encourage, support, and foster that community that brings in so much revenue.

Get your priorities straight, Nashville government.  

6 Comments

  • Home brewer
    January 7, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    The homebrewed beer comment in this is off base. Home brewed beer would be as safe as the food items that were mentioned being legal in California. As such you analogies seem distorted. Under federal law if the brewery building is seperate from the home it is legal to make and sell commercial beer from a residentially zoned property. It does require more over sight than the recording studio, but please do not make homebrewed beer sound potentially dangerous compared to other home produced food and drink. Now if you were talking about distilling, that is different. 🙂

  • Lawson
    January 17, 2016 at 9:03 am

    Pull your head out of you collective ass, Nashville.

  • Neighbor
    January 17, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    This article is a classic case of “not me.” Keeping neighborhood character is very important. Your home based studio might draw 4, 6, 8 cars in and out of (and parking on) a small residential street not designed to handle that. Add in children playing, dogs walking, humans living and it isn’t safe or proper for a neighborhood. Why should a studio be any different than any other business? Oh yea, because rules don’t apply to you.

    • Brian
      March 22, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      what if someone who lived in davidson county owned 8 cars? are there laws that limit the number of vehicles a person can own in the county? or laws that prohibit the owner from parking these vehicles on the street?

  • Aubrey
    January 17, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    Also the comment of home daycare is off base. I have used a home daycare in the past and it was the best experience. They are smaller, cheaper, and a great work opportunity for stay at home parents.

  • Embrace with grace
    January 23, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    You don’t want me in the ‘ville
    But your kid will download
    That Katy Perry song I wrote for nil
    Katy gonna make some mil’s
    I’m just trying to pay a few bills
    U love that cool indie music
    Your hear on TV
    10-1 it was created by a little indie
    Like me

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