Podcast: Madison’s outdoor music debate

Compromise and colorful comments emerged at this week’s Madison Parks Commission meeting.

Compromise and colorful comments emerged at this week’s Madison Parks Commission meeting.


Madagascar artist Jaojoby performing at one of 2015's Central Park Sessions concerts. Photo courtesy Bob Queen.

Madagascar artist Jaojoby performing at one of 2015’s Central Park Sessions concerts. Photo courtesy Bob Queen.

It was pretty clear over the past few weeks that a proposed new rule limiting the volume of live music in City of Madison parks to 85 decibels just wasn’t going to work for the organizers and performers involved in Madison’s summer festivals and other outdoor concerts. This past Wednesday, at a surprisingly entertaining Madison Parks Commission meeting, city officials revised the limit up to 95 decibels (as measured at the sound board, also wow did the meeting ever get into the weeds regarding the finer points of decibel monitoring) and streamlined some other aspects of the proposal. Dozens of people showed up to register their opposition to or support of new limits.

Those who signed up to speak at the meeting made points about the potential for decibel restrictions to turn off national and international music acts, held forth angrily about festival noise pervading their homes, and testified to the role of La Fete De Marquette in raising money for the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Centers food-assistance programs. Plus one guy delivered this whole bit about humming with love and I still don’t know what all that was about.

For now, it seems like a compromise that most people can live with, though it still raises some issues. For instance, the same limits do not apply to events held on Madison streets (like Live on King Street, Freakfest, and Taste of Madison) or to the city-owned but privately managed Breese Stevens Field. That said, some of the people with a dog in that fight, including representatives from Madison concert promoters Majestic Live and Frank Productions, came out against the initially proposed 85 decibel limit earlier in the process.

I interviewed people and recorded much of the public comment period at Wednesday’s meeting and bring you this podcast report. Don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes and catch WORT-FM’s weeknight news show In Our Backyard, which partners with us to produce these.

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