Highlights from the massive program include a session on remote music recording hosted by engineer-producer Ebonie Smith and The Recording Academy’s New York Chapter; a workshop to help artists connect with fans online hosted by The American Association of Independent Music (A2IM); and a multi-part masterclass for aspiring artists hosted by 300 Entertainment CEO/co-founder Kevin Liles.
Partners include 300 Entertainment, A2IM, Building Beats, Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage Anywhere, co-sign, FairPlay, New Music USA, New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), Offline Projects, The Recording Academy’s New York Chapter and Women in Music.
The program comes with an added urgency to support the local music scene at a time of unprecedented concern. At least five New York music venues have closed permanently since the start of the pandemic, while many others are struggling to survive. But del Castillo also hopes NYMMEP will emphasize that the local music scene is, at its core, alive and well.
“There is always going to be a burning desire for the creative community to create. That’s one of the myths of the pandemic that I really want to dispel: This idea that arts and entertainment is shut down,” del Castillo says. “No. The venues are shut down, but the process of creativity continues.”
Adds de Blasio: “Musicians and artists make New York City the greatest city on earth, and we know COVID-19 has hit this community hard. As we fight this pandemic and rebuild a fairer and better city, I’m excited to offer such dynamic and exciting opportunities to get creators back on their feet. Music will tell the story of this city’s comeback. I can’t wait to hear it.”
View the full NYMMEP program here, and read on as del Castillo discusses the planning process, newly-passed stimulus package and more.
What can you tell us about the NYMMEP planning process?
[We’re] finding ways to facilitate the expressions of creativity, information-sharing and learning from what has happened over the last year. Through those conversations, [we’re] identifying needs among industry, among fans or audience, to see what kinds of programming would be helpful and necessary. We’re kicking it off with a pretty robust slate. It has probably been a month-to-month ratio: One month of planning for every month of programming. But we also want to leave open the possibility for other folks to step up and participate in a variety of ways. We have this great slate we’re announcing, but we’re still in conversations about programming.
One of the things that’s obvious is that we can’t gather right now to hear live music together. So this is a way to keep that spirit of community alive, and provide support and resources for them.
Last month, Congress passed a new stimulus package including the Save Our Stages Act, marking the first-ever national grant program dedicated to indie music venues. What’s your response?
It’s what we were hoping for when we last spoke. I’m certainly glad that the legislation passed. We’re still waiting to see what the actual mechanics of the program will be, but it’s definitely the help that is needed. Venues have really been suffering. There’s the spiritual and emotional and communal aspect of it, and then there’s the hardcore financial realities and the jobs that those provide. The one thing we’re going to be really focused on in the next few weeks is making sure that we’re working with our partners at Small Business Services and Small Business Administration once the program details are released to make sure that information gets to our constituents, our venues, our operators, etcetera, and make sure they are first in mind to get that funding.
What else has changed for New York’s local music scene since we last spoke in July?
We had been hoping to get a little bit more openness by the end of last year. And we did, a little bit: We did “Off Broadway in the Boros,” we saw some pop-up concerts; we worked with the VMAs to get that off the ground. But it’s about trying to navigate social distancing regulations, and what would be allowed in certain scenarios for live performance. It took a while to get that lined up and communicated to our performing partners.
That has resulted in the “Open Culture” program, which will allow artists, cultural institutions, venues and other groups to stage events outdoors through an application process through the fall of next year. It’s supposed to kick off in March. In the same way that we want to make sure people understand how the Save Our Stages and stimulus funding works, we’ll be hosting webinars and town halls to make sure that folks know how Open Culture will work. We’re trying to do everything we can to provide opportunities for our performers to perform and stay above water.
In July, you said that you hope the pandemic will provide an opportunity to rethink the “flawed system” for New York’s music venues, which faced rising rents, gentrification and other challenges even before the pandemic hit. Do you feel like that conversation has taken off?
We’ve been so focused on just getting the funding and stimulus support for them, that unfortunately, we haven’t made as much headway in that space as I would’ve hoped. We’re just trying to stem the bleeding, if you will. But I think seeing how the stimulus package programs roll out [will] force a conversation about the role of our performing arts, and the arts in general, in our economy. It has become very clear that music, performing arts, and arts in general are a huge economic driver, not just for New York but for our nation. We need to push that conversation further, and figure out a better framework for supporting these industries.
Are we in a different place? Since our conversation in July, there is a much bigger awareness of that than there ever was. Now, we just need to continue to push that awareness into real action and reevaluation of how we support these industries.