NYC Mayor's Office Awards $500K In Grants to Local Female Musicians

NYC Women's Fund
Courtesy of NYC Media & Entertainment

This is the first year that music has been included in an annual funding initiative from the Mayor's Office.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) awarded a total of $500,000 in grants to local female and female-identifying musicians today (March 12), part of a three-year initiative to address the underrepresentation of women in the arts.

Launched with its first round of funding in February 2019 as the NYC Women's Film, TV and Theatre Fund, the initiative has since been renamed the NYC Women's Fund for Media, Music and Theatre, as today's funding round brings music under its umbrella for the first time.

Music projects made up 35 of the 94 total grant recipients across arts industries -- each of whom received up to $50,000 to finish their projects, for a combined total of $2 million in funding.

“The City of New York has taken the groundbreaking step of investing in female-identified artists to address gender inequity in the creative industries,” MOME Commissioner Anne del Castillo tells Billboard. “After adding music to the Women’s Fund this year, we are proud to have been able to support 35 musical projects across multiple genres -- from jazz to classical, from electronic to rock.”

The Mayor's Office says that it received 673 applications for music grants, making it the largest category among the total 1,357 applications. Those were evaluated by a panel of experts including Columbia Journalism Review managing editor Betsy Morais, veteran music attorney Jennifer Justice and more.

The grant-winning music projects include everything from a bilingual album from singer-songwriter and activist Renee Goust featuring women's voices in the Mexican and American folk genres to an EP from Nigerian singer Ibiwunmi Olaiya (who goes by Wunmi Olaiya) that combines afrobeat, jazz fusion and afro house music with lyrics that address female empowerment. The initiative also awarded funding for documentaries, fiction shorts, theatre productions and other projects. View the full list of 2020 grant-winners here.

The fund's first round in 2019 awarded a total of $1.5 million to 63 film, digital and theatre projects.

Meanwhile, women make up just 22% of artists, 12% of songwriters and 2% of producers, according to widely-shared reports from the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative.

“Women are more than half of the population, but they are still woefully underrepresented in music, theatre, film, and digital media industries,” del Castillo added in a press release. “We are proud to have increased the number of awardees by 50%, as we take gender equity head on by helping female-identified artists get their projects over the finish line.”

By the end of its three-year run in 2021, the NYC Women's Fund initiative will distribute a total of $5.5 million to women working in the arts. In 2016, de Blasio announced that New York City's music industry would be incorporated into the MOME's realm for the first time, which until then had focused on film, television and theater.