New York City has long been a cultural hotbed of music, synonymous with genres as diverse as hip-hop, punk, jazz and classical music, just to name a few. Now, the city is taking steps to both celebrate and support that rich musical past, present and future by announcing that June will be the first-ever celebration of New York Music Month, with a wide-ranging slate of both free and paid concerts, workshops, walking tours, conferences and utilities for musicians including more than 2,000 hours worth of free rehearsal space that will be underwritten by the city.
The announcement was made this morning (May 4) by New York Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin, in partnership with industry coalition New York Is Music, founded by Downtown Music Publishing CEO Justin Kalifowitz. The new initiative was borne out of months of conversations between the MOME — which only officially added music to its portfolio upon Menin’s appointment in February 2016 — and music industry leaders, which kicked into high gear following a June 2016 summit convened by Menin and attended by representatives of more than 75 music-centric companies and organizations.
“The idea is to really highlight all the incredible things that are happening in music in New York City that are already concentrated in the month of June, but also to bring some new elements to the table,” Menin told Billboard in an interview this week, noting that the Governors Ball, Northside Festival, SummerStage and BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! events, as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction and A2IM’s Indie Week, were already plotted for the month and will now become part of the larger initiative. “We thought it was really important to just have this one month that highlights the incredible assets that New York has in terms of the music industry — whether it be the talent, the creativity — and that’s what a number of these programs do.”
In addition to the already-scheduled events, for which the city will provide marketing and advertising in its NYMM push, are a number of initiatives that are aimed at helping creators within the city. Those 2,000 hours of free rehearsal space emerged out of a city partnership with Spaceworks; the city has also partnered with NYU Steinhardt for a day-long Sound Development NYC conference that will center on the intersection of music, technology and real estate as it relates to musicians in New York; and will produce a panel discussion on Women Behind the Music hosted by Spotify; as well as a month-long, three-part series of LGBTQ workshops.
They’ve also put out a request for proposal (RFP) to create an “online toolkit” for musicians in the city that will include boilerplate language for various contracts; step-by-step guides on distributing music and other revenue-generating industry tips; and connections to local companies and businesses, all aimed towards helping artists navigate a complex and expensive music industry landscape.
“Our music economic impact study showed that our musicians on average are making $35,000 a year; obviously, many make more, but the average is $35,000,” Menin said. “And given that, with the cost of living and working in New York City, we wanted to try to help musicians as much as possible.”
In March, Menin’s MOME released the findings of a music economic study in the city that showed the NYC music industry supported almost 60,000 jobs and $5 billion in wages, and drove $21 billion in overall economic value in 2015. But it also pointed to other issues within the city that were hurting emerging, independent musicians.
“Our music economic study showed that a number of small venues have closed in recent years,” Menin explained. “At venues all across New York City, 5.4 million tickets to musical performances were sold last year in New York; that’s more than L.A., San Francisco and Chicago combined. Large venues are doing very well. But what we want to be able to do is try to support those emerging musicians, oftentimes who are performing at those small venues, but if the small venues are closing that closes avenues for them.”
In a press release accompanying the announcement, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the month-long initiative. “Throughout its history, New York City’s diversity has fueled remarkable innovations in the arts — and nowhere is this clearer than the city’s music industry,” de Blasio said in a statement. “From hip-hop to punk rock, salsa to bebop, the range of musical styles that have originated in here are a testament to our city’s multiethnic roots. In naming June 2017 as New York Music Month, we celebrate all of the contributions our City’s music creators have made here, and encourage New Yorkers to experience all that our music community has to offer.”
The MOME will also offer fan-centric aspects as part of New York Music Month: free neighborhood walking tours that include famous music sites around the city; an online map, built in conjunction with Foursquare, showing landmarks and other famous music sites throughout the boroughs; and free entrance to the Museum of the City of New York with a mention of NYMM on June 18.
“As the global music business experiences a true renaissance, there’s no better time to recognize the industry’s broad impact on New York’s economy, identify key challenges and opportunities for the creative sector and create new networks of common interest across all five boroughs,” New York Is Music’s Kalifowitz said in a statement. “NY is Music co-founder William Harvey and I thank the Commissioner for her supportive role in encouraging the growth of New York’s music industry, and helping to ensure that New York City continues to be the music capital of the world.”
Added Menin, in her conversation with Billboard: “Music has never been housed in any city agency before, so this is a real seismic change. We think people know the work we’ve done to negotiate to bring the Grammys back; we feel that, with our music industry report and New York Music Month, we’re going to continue to support the music industry.”