The New York City Media & Entertainment Department released a study that showed live music contributed over $10 billion to the region’s economy.
However nightlife is battling an ever changing landscape of venue codes, permits, inspections, and regulations. Manhattan has out-priced most independent venues and promoters, pushing them into other boroughs, while corporate entities like Live Nation and AEG pay top dollar.
Nevertheless, the music community has always found a way to survive and please fans by producing pop-up events, regardless if all necessary permits were or were not legally obtained.
A few years ago DIY spaces across Manhattan and Brooklyn were thriving with a cult-like following, but with a crackdown from the city, promoters were forced to explore traditional routes. Acquiring the necessary paperwork for a legal event is an involved process across multiple divisions with the State Liquor Authority, Department of Buildings, the Mayor’s Office and other high ranking officials, a process that has recently only grown more difficult.
Ghost Ship in Oakland was a terrible tragedy that put eyes on a misrepresented scene. There are unsafe establishments with blatant neglect for people’s safety, and the public is thankful for authorities that do weed out such conditions. However, the spotlight has hindered opportunities for those that do follow the rules and produce safe events.
Venues in the NYC area are facing extreme challenges trying to open or renovate up to code (with new codes emerging) resulting in spaces losing thousands, if not millions, of dollars. In a short few months,warehouse events have dried up as all applications for special event permits and liquor licenses are steadily denied, leaving promoters helpless and unable to meet the city’s new expectations. On the other end of the corporate spectrum, the AEG and Bowery Presents partnership has successfully opened a new venue in Brooklyn (Brooklyn Steel) and intend to do major upgrades to Webster Hall, a multimillion dollar project.
There is a silver lining! On June 15th, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced “New York Works,” a series of initiatives to add 100,000 new non-minimum wage jobs into the city’s economy over the next decade. Included in the initiative is a new role within the Office of Media and Entertainment, who will take lead in the nightlife office titled Nightlife Ambassador.
The Nighttime Ambassador will essentially be a gateway for all things music and nightlife related. As the lead advocate for the live music community, they will be the middle person to help coordinate between venues, local authorities, and communities. Most importantly, they will be helping business owners through licensing and permitting processes, including financial support for legal services, architectural services, and safety improvements.
NYC Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin stated:
“I am thrilled that Mayor de Blasio has announced the creation of a new function within our agency, a nightlife office the city’s first Nighttime Ambassador. New York City nightlife is second to none and is a major reason why people around the world flock here to live and visit. It is also a vital part of the city’s economy generating hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic output. Yet in recent years, over 20 percent of small music venues in the city have closed. Our office aims to work with various stakeholders to both support the industry and ensure that community concerns are being addressed.”
With the choppy waters currently becoming more severe in New York City, the music and nightlife industries welcome the Mayor’s plans with open arms. It is an exciting time and turning point to see how the program will help bring more music to the fans and allow independent promoters to thrive again.
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