Working Together to Make Music Thrive

Guest Commentary

Volume 117, No. 6June, 2017

Julie Menin

Musicians and actors perform parts of the Broadway show “Beautiful: the Carole King Musical” during last year’s Broadway in the Boros series, sponsored by the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment. Photo: Antoine Braxton

For over five decades, the Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment has been the city’s main liaison to the film, TV and theatre industries in New York. This past year, we were thrilled when our portfolio expanded to include music.

This is the first time that the music industry has ever had an official city agency that represents it, which is critical because New York City is the music capital of the world.

When we got started last summer, we were very happy to have Local 802 as a participant in our music industry convening at City Hall. More than 75 representatives from labels, management companies, recording studios, promoters, venue owners, publicity firms, rights organizations, publishers, brands, lawyers, distributors, universities – and, of course, musicians themselves – attended the two-hour summit. It helped us understand the perspectives of stakeholders across the industry, and develop an agenda for how the city can support the production of music here in New York. While developing that agenda, it quickly became apparent that the industry badly needed empirical research about music’s impact on our economy. Our office commissioned and released the first-of-its-kind economic impact study of the music industry in New York City. The study showed that the city’s $21 billion music economy is also the most robust and diverse musical ecosystem in the world: our top music venues sold 5.4 million tickets in 2015 – more than Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville combined. And despite the challenges the music industry has faced, there’s been a net gain of music jobs in New York over the last decade. However, with median yearly wages for musicians at $30,000, the study also showed that there is work to do and we will be working closely with the musicians of Local 802 and stakeholders throughout the city to ensure that those who create our vibrant arts environment can afford to live and work here.

We’ve also been very happy to work with Local 802 in preparation for the 60th annual Grammy Awards, which are coming back to New York City in 2018. We played a key role in helping to negotiate a return of the Grammys to New York City. After 15 years away, music’s biggest night will provide a $200 million economic impact to our city, and celebrate what’s next in music right here in New York. As we plan programming in anticipation of the Grammys’ return, we look forward to additional partnerships with Local 802.

Most recently, we were also delighted to announce that June 2017 will be the very first New York Music Month, a citywide celebration of New York City’s diverse music ecosystem. New York Music Month celebrates the role of music in our city with co-branded concerts,  social media campaigns and  educational programs. A comprehensive calendar of free and ticketed music events throughout the city can be found at Most importantly, throughout the month of June, our office will provide programming and resources for musicians themselves. In partnership with Spaceworks, we are underwriting more than 2,000 hours of free rehearsal space to musicians. Additionally, we will be working with Local 802 leadership and musicians to offer free workshops and resources for musicians to increase their revenue flows and create careers that are both artistically fulfilling and financially viable.

New York’s music economy represents every component of the industry – from songwriters, singers and instrumentalists to engineers, venues, distributors, producers and digital collaboration firms. And every type of music calls New York City home. Salsa music was forged in East Harlem, hip-hop in the Bronx, punk rock in the East Village, classical music in Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, jazz in Harlem and the Village, musical theater on Broadway; and more. Music is etched into New York City’s identity.

Of course, you can’t have music without musicians. Through partnerships with musicians and with Local 802, we will work to strengthen the music environment in New York City by insisting that musicians receive fair wages and protections for their work, ensuring that live music continues to thrive, developing ways to utilize city resources to promote and encourage increased recording and scoring with New York musicians, expanding our city’s stock of performance, rehearsal and recording space, and otherwise bolstering New York City’s standing as the music capital of the world.

Julie Menin is the commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment.