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EricLivingWage
State Sen. Eric Griego, D-Bernalillo, is running for Congress, but he still cares about local music.

Radio Ga Ga

Bill offers New Mexico radio stations incentive to think local

February 8, 2012, 12:00 am

A new (ish) bill proposed by the New Mexico Music Commission and sponsored by state Sen. Eric Griego, D-Bernalillo, could have a major impact on the business of music statewide. 


Senate Bill 43 would offer incentives to New Mexico radio stations willing to set aside 20 percent of their programming time for local artists. This minor tweak to the stations’ formats would result in a 15 percent deduction from their gross receipts tax. 


“We think about agriculture and infrastructure and even visual arts, but we never seem to consider musicians when it comes to state planning,” Griego, who is also a current candidate for US Congress, says. “There are so many talented and hard-working musical artists in this state, and it’s time for them to get some of the exposure they deserve.”


Griego introduced a similar version of the bill, he brainchild of State Folklorist and NMMC Vice Chairman Claude Stephenson, last year, but the Senate Finance Committee ultimately killed it. A musician himself, Stephenson is hopeful for success this time around. “One thing [the commission] has always heard from New Mexico musicians is that it’s hard to build a following—even in their hometowns—but back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, it wasn’t unheard of for a local band to have a regional radio hit,” he says. “The consolidation and corporate control of media has made it so this is no longer the case, but what we are saying is that if people get to listen to New Mexico music, they’re going to like what they hear.”


Though SB 43 sounds like a win-win situation for local musicians and radio stations, it has financial ramifications. The Department of Cultural Affairs estimates an annual cost of $58,000 to the state’s general fund. Further complications include the NMMC’s lack of budget. In the event the bill passes, the commission would be responsible for the data, which include the amount of tax credit claimed, a roundup of the stations participating and descriptions of jobs specifically created as a result of the credit. However, the commission currently has no paid staff, and it’s unclear how it would ensure stations’ compliance or provide required annual reports. 


As Griego points out, though, the bill would only affect about 15-20 radio stations statewide—and corporate-owned stations are ineligible, so any money generated for local stations and musicians will most likely stay within the state.

“I’m all for anything that will help create a better music scene because it will most likely create more tourism,” local radio magnate Scott Hutton tells SFR. “Obviously, our airtime already includes at least the required 20 percent of local music, and we would gladly welcome the incentive because we are a small, community-based organization.”


As any local musician will quickly point out, Santa Fe has an astounding amount of talent for its size. And though the local music bill has its fair share of hurdles, it may offer artists a reason to create and distribute more and better music. 


Austin, Texas, encourages local music with a musician community health plan and parking spaces for loading/unloading.


“I’ve lived in DC, Seattle, Dallas…all over the place,” Griego says. “And one of the things I’ve learned is that music is vitally important when it comes to a city’s cultural vibrancy.” 


SB 43 goes before the Senate Finance Committee soon, and Griego urges anyone interested to get involved. “We want to know what the people think of this bill—whether they’re musicians or not—and the place to weigh in is with the Senate Finance Committee,” Griego says. “I love music, and it’s always been a goal of mine to help local musicians not only survive, but to thrive.”

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