By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
As singer-songwriter John Prine would say, New York City’s music business is doing “pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain,” according to a study released on Wednesday by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin.
While the music business overall has been disrupted by technological changes, music supports nearly 60,000 jobs, accounts for $5 billion in wages, and generates $21 billion in total economic output for the city according to the study, conducted by Boston Consulting Group.
Though smaller venues and businesses still close at a fairly alarming rate, the music sector is actually growing faster than the rest of the local economy, the study says. Music-related jobs are growing by an annual rate of four percent, and wages are growing at the rate of seven percent — compared to three and five percent in the city overall.
A number of those music-related jobs are in Brooklyn. Inc.com recently featured the DUMBO neighborhood as being a hotbed of music startups, including the CrowdSurge concert-ticketing technology startup, Mick Artists Management, a musician-management company, indie label Domino Records, record cover designer Version Industries, electronic-dance-music-management company AM Only, and more.
“Because of the city’s resilience and resourcefulness, New York has weathered changes in the music industry better than other cities and has come out on top,” Menin said in a release.
De Blasio credited “raw talent and homegrown energy” for building the local industry.
When de Blasio appointed Menin as commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME), he expanded the agency’s reach to include music, a move that drew the praise of many in the industry.
Built-in music ecosystem
The report points out New York’s “music ecosystem” as a major draw. The ecosystem ranges from small artist venues and rehearsal spaces to large concert spaces, publishers, promoters, recording studios, lawyers and accountants. New York also offers proximity to advertising, media and finance, which help to “anchor” the music industry.
As one example of the strength of music here, more tickets are sold to live music performances in New York City – 5.4 million in 2015 – than any other city in the world.
In another example, more than 20 percent of successful music projects on Kickstarter are from New York City, Molly Neuman of Kickstarter told MOME.
Peter Shapiro, owner of the Brooklyn Bowl, praised the study for quantifying the importance of music to the city.
“After owning live music venues in NYC for 20-plus years, it was a great feeling to hear that the city's lauded Media & Entertainment Office now has expanded its portfolio to include music. Yay!” he said.
Everything’s (not quite) coming up roses
The report cautions, however, that music is still a hard way to make a living.
The city’s musicians, small venues, collaboration spaces and music education institutions are most vulnerable to economic trends. More than 20 percent of smaller venues — which the study calls the incubators of talent—have closed in the past 15 years.
MOME says this presents a potential problem for maintaining a “thriving artist community,” and keeping NYC the destination of choice for up and coming artists.
Assemblymember Joseph Lentol (north Brooklyn) said in an Op-Ed in Crain’s last year that the music business in New York needed help from the government.
“During the past decade, our state has witnessed an incredible flight of recording studios, technicians, artists and songwriters,” he wrote. “From 1999 to 2014, New York's share of top albums fell to about 12 percent from 24 percent, and Local 802 AFM, the state's union of professional musicians, reported a 30 percent drop in recording work.”
Lentol partnered with state Sen. Martin Golden, (R-Bay Ridge), to introduce a bill that would establish a music-production tax credit.