NYC Mayor's Office Announces $500,000 in Grants for Female Musicians

New York City
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New York City.

The finances are part of the office's NYC Women's Film, TV and Theatre Fund -- now renamed the NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre, as music is brought under its umbrella for the first time.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) is investing $500,000 in grants to local female musicians, an effort to support music made by and for women in a male-dominated industry.

The finances are part of the office's NYC Women's Film, TV and Theatre Fund -- now renamed the NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre, as music is brought under its umbrella for the first time. Currently in its second run, the program has already awarded $1.5 million to 63 film, TV, theatre and digital media projects made by women-identifying creatives.

Newly-appointed MOME commissioner Anne del Castillo announced the funding Tuesday (June 4) at the third annual New York Music Month conference: Innovation at the Intersection of Music + Tech. She says the funding was motivated in part by the results of a widely-discussed recent report from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative that found just 10% of Grammy nominees from 2013–2019 were female.

“We are thrilled to announce the addition of music to our NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre and to commit $500,000 to the cause of fostering greater gender equity in the music industry," says del Castillo. "This is an important step in our ongoing efforts to increase representation across the media and entertainment sectors.”

Shira Gans, senior executive director of policy and programs at MOME, adds that it was important for the fund to support not just women artists, but all female music creators, from sound engineers to producers -- sectors where gender inequality is often amplified.

"We wanted to look at the data that came out of that study, and tailor the fund to incentivize projects that will address the main inequity," she says. "We didn't want it just to be about female musical acts. We wanted to make sure we were really promoting projects that had a female credit for writers, engineers and producers." 

As such, the fund application will open in July to NYC-based, female-identifying producers, composers, engineers, solo musicians, ensemble bands and orchestras who are not currently signed to a major label. Applicants must also show evidence of a growing fan base, and have played multiple live shows.

Creators who can check those boxes may apply for a grant to fund a new EP, album or video for yet-to-be-released work. Eligible expenses include studio rental, instrument and equipment rental and more. The funds will be handed out to winners (announced in March 2020) in grants of up to $20,000 and administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts.

The MOME is just the latest group to spring into action following reports from the Annenberg Initiative, which also inspired Alicia Keys to launch the She Is The Music foundation alongside industry executives in late 2018. But speaking at the NYMM conference directly after the MOME's announcement, music attorney and former Roc Nation exec Jennifer Justice explained that there's still much work to be done before these initiatives create real change -- especially in terms of closing the gender pay gap.

"I was fortunate enough to be sitting in the room in the music industry when a lot of important decisions were made, but I was always the only woman in the room," Justice said. "Unfortunately, I do not believe that it has gotten any better. We do have some amazing female leaders and I would love to see them continue to succeed."

It's why she founded her own female-focused advisory and legal firm, The Justice Department, late last year. "Our world is better when we’re 50/50, on the executive level as well as on the talent level," she said, adding that she'd love to see the music industry conduct a pay audit, and release those numbers.

At least for New York creatives, the MOME initiative is a start. 

“I’m really proud to be part of an administration that is committed to increasing opportunities and representation in our thriving media and entertainment industries," del Castillo added. "It’s an honor and privilege to be leading that effort. We’ve got a lot of work to do.”