As a breeding ground for artistic creation, New York City in the 20th century had few, if any, peers. What other city could claim New York’s endless diversity of ethnic and creative communities?
Music is part of the city’s mystique. The American songbook, to a large extent, was born in Tin Pan Alley. Jazz fueled the Harlem Renaissance before popular rock ’n’ roll rose out of the Brill Building. From doo-wop in Harlem to hip-hop in the Bronx, whether it’s punk in the Bowery or folk revival in Greenwich Village, New York contributed its share – and then some – to the soundtrack of the 20th century.
There is no way to measure music’s full value to the city, but a March study conducted by the Boston Consulting Group examined, among other things, the importance of music to the local economy. The report, which was commissioned by the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, concluded: “New York City is home to one of the world’s largest – if not the largest – and most influential music ecosystems, supporting nearly 60,000 jobs, accounting for roughly $5 billion in wages and generating a total economic output of $21 billion.”
That is not to say there are no weak points or warning signs. There are – which should come as no surprise to anyone who witnessed the transformation of the city over the past quarter century. New York City, in some ways, has become less hospitable to the sort of creators who made it a mecca for the arts. While chasing creative dreams has always required sacrifice, such as the deferral of creature comforts, there is a material difference between fruitful struggle and unrelenting hardship, between obstacles that challenge and those that overwhelm. At the turn of the century, a convergence of forces, each larger than any given industry, shook up the city’s music sector. The real estate market began to soar as digital technology upended 20th century modes of music production…