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.”
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.
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.
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.