Safe for Now, Brooklyn Music Mecca Sees a Cloudy Future

More than 20 percent of New York's smaller music venues have closed in the past 15 years. Although Brooklyn institution Barbes was recently saved by a crowdfunding campaign, its founder is pessimistic about the future of New York's independent arts.
July 13, 2017, 6am PDT | softcity
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Cristina Bejarano

A recent report commissioned by New York's Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) is generally bullish about the city's music business, but identifies fault lines exactly where you might expect. The segment of the industry the authors identify as "mass music consumption"—a category that involves major live performances, broadcasting, online streaming, and record sales—is booming, with high average salaries and an expanding number of jobs. At the other end of the industry, a group identified as "local artist communities"—which includes the actual musicians, along with small venues like Barbes, schools, and rehearsal spaces—is struggling.

"I'm pretty pessimistic," Barbes founder Olivier Conan said. "I think we're going through such a horribly brutal phase of... I don't know, economic oppression, almost; I don't know what you call it. Since cities have become desirable again, there's no safe place for you to create low-cost environments that foster art."

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Published on Monday, July 10, 2017 in Soft City
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