The Grammys are returning to New York City this Sunday.
Taking a hiatus from its home in Los Angeles, the popular music awards show is returning to New York for the first time in more than a decade.
Julie Menin, commissioner of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, stopped by the Slant Podcast to talk about how she lured the show to Madison Square Garden and whether the city has held up its end of the bargain – as well as what her agency has been doing to support women in the entertainment industry well before the #MeToo movement took off.
Read an excerpt, and subscribe to City & State podcasts, below.
C&S: The Grammys are back in New York City this weekend. How long has it been since the city hosted the music industry’s biggest awards show?
JM: It's been 15 years, 15 long years. We're very happy to have them back. It's really a phenomenal moment for the city of New York. The Grammys brings over $200 million of economic revenue to the city of New York. And it really talks to the primacy of music here in New York, New York being the music capital of the world.
C&S: Do you have any favorites among the nominees this year?
JM: Well, certainly Childish Gambino. But it's really exciting overall, in terms of no matter what kind of genre you like, the Grammys has something really for everyone. And if you think about New York City and the history of music in New York, salsa was born here, punk, certainly hip hop on Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, all these different musical genres are homegrown in New York City. So to have music's biggest night back in New York after a 15-year absence for their 60th anniversary is really a special, iconic moment for this city. And we have been having events all around the city in the past year in celebration in this, really culminating this week. We've had free concerts, we've had a number of different free rehearsal spaces for musicians, programs that are really about access and inclusiveness.
C&S: How did you get the Grammys to come here?
JM: In the first week I was commissioner of media and entertainment, I went out to L.A. to visit the Recording Academy to begin speaking to them about this because the contract was up with the Staples Center in Los Angeles. So really there was a moment, we had a moment as a city where we could go after this awards show. And it was a lengthy negotiation, really involving a multitude of different parties, but it really all came together from labor to the host committee to Madison Square Garden, there were just so many different stakeholders involved in this process and in this negotiation. And it’s again a real harbinger of what New York City can do in terms of we can get these iconic awards show to the city because they're great revenue generators for the city of New York. And it's revenue we wouldn't have had but for this. And so when we talk about building more affordable housing and more school seats, absolutely bringing these large-scale award shows does have a significant economic impact on the city.
C&S: The head of the Recording Academy claimed the city fell short on its funding promises.
JM: The city absolutely met its commitment. The city said that we would put together a package and we met that package. And that package consisted of host committee donations, it considered concessions by labor unions, in-kind advertising. We shouldn't be using taxpayer money to bring awards shows here. So what we did is we defrayed the cost by putting together a host committee of private companies that were able to defray some of the costs, working very closely with the labor unions, working very closely with the Garden, in-kind advertising, bus ads, subway ads. So all of the commitments were met. I know that at this point, the Grammys' costs are going up, but that was honestly because of decisions they made rather late in the game to change some key elements of the show. But the city met its obligation.
C&S: And going forward, the show will go back to L.A.
JM: The show will go back to L.A., this was a one-year deal. The Staples Center in Los Angeles has put in millions of dollars to retrofit their center for the Grammys and they had the full expectation that the Grammys would never leave their center. So we were very pleased to prove them wrong on that account and to bring this show here, but it is going back to L.A. next year. But I will tell you we're working very hard on securing other award shows, not in music, I'm not going to say what they are, to come to New York because again, I do think it's a good economic driver.
C&S: The #MeToo has brought a lot of attention to the treatment of women in the media industry. How do you change that culture?
JM: One of the things we did, really over a year and a half ago, well before the Harvey Weinstein scandal, is we announced five programs focused on women, focused on trying to get more women into media and entertainment. So we are actually the first city in the country to announce a $5 million fund for women filmmakers and women playwrights. And for many of these women, it might be their first project that they're doing and it can be very difficult to get financing. … These projects are so important because if we do not get more women into leadership positions, as director, as producers, as writers, we're not going to be able to change that dynamic. And so I'm really proud of the fact that we here in New York City at the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, we're the first city agency in the country to be doing programs like this.