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Bebop and taxes


With the U.S. tax season coming down to the wire, let’s note how taxes altered the jazz scene in the 1940s.

The demise of big bands and swing in the years following World War II was attributable not to changing musical tastes but to the imposition in 1944 of a 30% “cabaret tax” (later a slightly less ruinous 20%) on all receipts at establishments offering live performances and in which dancing was permitted.

An exception was made for recorded and purely instrumental music, assuming that no dancing took place. The heyday of bebop was one of the results.

This according to “How the taxman cleared the dance floor” by Eric Felten (The Wall Street journal 18 March 2013, p. A13). Above and below, beneficiaries of the cabaret tax.

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