While Cary Clarke takes a much-deserved vacation traversing the globe, I'll be filling in for him here at the local music news desk.
—Ezra Ace Caraeff
For a city that pops its collar and boasts about its support for the arts community, Portland sure hasn't been too friendly to the local music community as of late. First there is the still ongoing drama with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and their minor postings rulings. Then the city cracked down on all-ages arts collective Rererato (forcing them to close their doors for good). Now Mississippi Studios has lost its appeal over back employment taxes levied by the Oregon Employment Department (OED). The taxes stemmed from an audit that utilized a 1983 amendment that states all musicians are employees of the venues they perform in.
But wait, aren't musicians independent contractors? And how could any one venue pay the employment taxes on every single musician that performs within their walls? All of these are great points, but the OED doesn't seem to share this opinion. In fact, nearly every music venue in Portland could be affected by this ruling, and future audits can go as far back as 2005. If they are audited, the venues will be expect to pony up taxes for approximately four percent of their total pay to all performing musicians for the time frame in the audit.
After settling with the city for the back employment taxes, a motivated Jim Brunberg (owner of Mississippi Studios) lets us know by email his plans to fight future misuse of this provision. His plan? To "bond together and change the law, or repeal it altogether." He continues, "The law was put in place by the restaurant industry, which has very little (if any) connection to concert venues."
In other news, and in direct contradiction to the three previous paragraphs of dire news and warnings, there is a new venue in town! And not only that, ist's the rarest of the rare, an all-ages venue. Dubbed Exit Only and located in North Portland, the space is dedicated to all-ages shows and, according to the venue's Zach Barnes, the room "is meant to be one of several alternatives in this city to the more traditional venues." The amount of shows at Exit Only will fluctuate—anywhere from five to 15 a month—and as Barnes puts it, "There's no shortage of places to play a show in Portland, and this is not a bar. That probably does more to limit the amount of shows at this space than anything else." He adds, "For us, it's a matter of wanting to contribute to the local art community in any way possible, and this space seems like a good start."
Exit Only is located at 1121 N Loring, and online at myspace.com/pdxexitonly.