About Make Music New York

What is Make Music New York?

Now in its tenth year, Make Music New York, “the largest music event ever to grace Gotham” (Metro New York), is a unique festival of free concerts in public spaces throughout the five boroughs of New York City, all on June 21st, the first day of summer. MMNY takes place simultaneously with similar festivities in more than 750 cities around the world — a global celebration of music making.

The next Make Music New York takes place on Wednesday, June 21, 2017.

Completely different from a typical music festival, Make Music New York is open to anyone who wants to take part. From 10 in the morning to 10 at night, every kind of musician — young and old, amateur and professional, of every musical persuasion — pours onto streets, sidewalks, parks, and plazas to share their music with friends, neighbors, and strangers. Thousands of amateur musicians take the opportunity to play in public spaces, often for the biggest crowds of their lives. Professional musicians perform for new audiences, who come out from under their headphones to hear unfamiliar groups risk-free. And everyone is invited to sing along and enjoy the first day of summer.

Among the over 1,000 concerts each year, MMNY includes a number of special projects: “Mass Appeal,” where hundreds of musicians band together to perform massive pieces written for a single type of instrument; “Punk Island“; and others listed here.

Some 5,000 musicians performed in 2016. Along with concerts by individual artists, dozens of New York cultural institutions took part — including Friends of the High Line, Joe’s Pub, Madison Square Park, SummerStage, and more.

Where did the idea come from?

Make Music New York is based on France’s “Fête de la Musique,” a national musical holiday inaugurated in 1982. Ever since, the festival has become an international phenomenon, celebrated on the same day in more than 750 cities in 120 countries, including Germany, Italy, Greece, Russia, Lebanon, Ivory Coast, Australia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Canada, and Japan.

In North America, over three dozen June 21st celebrations now include Make Music BostonMake Music ChicagoMake Music Los Angeles, Make Music Madison (WI), and many others listed on the Make Music Day website.

Who can participate?

Anyone and everyone, in every borough of the city. Amateurs, part-time professionals, and established artists are all welcome.

Is this an annual event?

Yes, Make Music New York takes place every June 21st. (In 2016, it fell on a Tuesday; in 2017, it will fall on a Wednesday.)

Who puts this all together?

Make Music New York, Inc., is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization. Dozens of volunteers work throughout the city to help recruit musicians and venues, manage special projects, and promote the concerts. If you’re interested in joining us, see below!

How can I get involved as a volunteer?

Make Music New York is a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization.

Hundreds of volunteers have come together over the last ten years to put on Make Music New York — the largest musical event in NYC history. Some volunteers inspire and coordinate dozens of MMNY concerts in their neighborhood; some work on special projects such as Mass Appeal and Punk Island; others join our street team efforts to promote the concerts. If you are interested in volunteering, please email info@makemusicny.org.

What else does Make Music New York, Inc. do?

In 2011, Make Music New York launched a winter solstice festival called Make Music Winter, with 12 participatory musical parades on December 21st. The next Make Music Winter will take place on Wednesday, December 21, 2016. In 2014, we started a discussion and podcast series about the craft and meaning of music-making. This show, Making Music, currently airs on WBAI, hosted by our Deputy Director Jordan McLean.

Where can I donate to Make Music New York?

We’re glad you asked! As we expand and transform a ten-year event into an annual cultural landmark, we need your support to keep it going. Make Music New York, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; contributions are 100% tax-deductible. Please donate generously: click here.

I want to play in MMNY. What do I do?

Welcome on board! If you are a musician and would like to perform on June 21 as part of Make Music New York, please subscribe to our e-newsletter list (see the upper right corner of this page) to be notified when registration begins. When registration opens, you can create an artist profile for your ensemble, and use the matchmaking tool to make arrangements with locations.

When you are making plans, remember that Make Music New York is not a traditional festival, and most locations are not traditional music venues. Not every location will be able to provide power, and in most situations you — the artist — will be responsible for bringing your own equipment (such as amps, mics, and whatever else you need in addition to your instrument).

We also encourage artists to create their own performance locations — see below!

I want to host a MMNY concert. What do I do?

Welcome on board! If you have an outdoor location where you’d like to host a concert (such as the sidewalk outside of your building), please subscribe to our e-newsletter list (see the upper right corner of this page) to be notified when registration begins. At that point, you can create a venue profile for your location, and use the matchmaking tool to make arrangements with artists.

If you are not in the habit of hosting live music, take a moment to think through the logistics — what kind of music makes sense for the space? Where will artists set up? What kind of sound equipment can you offer? How many hours of music makes sense for your location?

What you decide to provide to artists is up to you; at a minimum, most locations provide access to electricity and a glass of water.

We also encourage locations to register their own artists — see below!

Can I register multiple locations or artists to participate in MMNY?

Absolutely! You are welcome to create multiple venue profiles if you would like to host concerts in more than one location. And, if you play in more than one ensemble, or are curating a show with multiple bands, you can create profiles for each one. Just be sure to create a separate profile for each location and each artist, so that each one can be officially matched in the system and included in our promotions.

Where can musicians play?

In a variety of outdoor spaces.

Sidewalks: Most musicians perform on New York’s 12,000 miles of sidewalks. MMNY secures the necessary permits from the City, so that musicians don’t have to deal with the paperwork or pay the fees. If you have a rock band, and you want to set up outside your building and play for your neighbors, we can help make that happen. If you want to perform Bach’s cello suites outside your friend’s convenience store, you can do that, too. Almost anything is possible. To use a sidewalk, you must leave a 5-foot wide path for passers-by, between your concert and the curb. Please choose a space that gives you the room you need.

Parks: MMNY secures permits for nearly 100 NYC park locations for June 21st concerts. These locations are made available on our website and assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. If you don’t see the park you’re looking for, it is probably already being used, unavailable to us, or the permit is still pending. Bear in mind that only 4 hours of amplified sound is allowed per park location, per day.

Community Gardens and Plazas: Some public spaces are privately controlled by community groups, management companies, or individuals. These can be fantastic performance locations, quiet yet accessible. People who control these spaces will make them available as venues on the matchmaking website.

Streets: Dozens of community organizations close off streets around the city for block party concerts. If your group wishes to produce a concert in the street, you must file an application with your local community board by March 21st. For more details, download our guide, “How To Apply For a Make Music New York Block Party” (pdf). Before submitting an application, please email us at info@makemusicny.org, and briefly describe your plans, so that we can coordinate your event with others in the neighborhood.

Other Spaces: If you want to use some other kind of outdoor location — such as a cemetery, bridge, subway platform, pier, or ferry — send an email to info@makemusicny.org with a detailed description of what you want to do, and who you have already spoken to at the location. We make no promises, but we’ll see what we can do.

What happens if I want to play at a location that is not listed?

That’s great! We encourage musicians to create their own performance locations, especially when they have an existing relationship with the space. Perhaps you’d like to perform on your stoop, in front of your office building, or outside the bar where you have a regular gig. In any case, make sure it’s OK with the location first, then log in, click on the “My Venues” tab, and register the location on the website. Finally, match your artist and venue profiles together at the time of your choosing. We’ll take care of the rest.

What happens if I want to host my friend’s band, but they aren’t listed on the site?

That’s great too! First, register the details of your location. Then either ask your friend to sign up their band, or do it for them — log in, click on the “My Artists” tab, and fill in their information. Finally, match the artist and venue profiles together at the time of your choosing. We’ll take care of the rest.

What happens if it rains?

In eight of MMNY’s past ten years, it has not rained in New York City on June 21st. If it does rain, concerts planned for sidewalks may take place inside a building lobby or store front. In this case, we simply ask that a door or window be opened so that the music is audible from the street. During the matchmaking process, registered locations will indicate what they will do in case of rain.

Will musicians be paid to perform?

Our organization does not pay musicians — nor do musicians pay us. Most musicians perform for free. But artists and venues are welcome to make any financial arrangements they wish, as long as the concerts are outdoors, free, and open to the public.

If MMNY doesn’t pay musicians, what does it do?

Make Music New York sets up the framework for your concert by securing and paying for all necessary permits, coordinating artists and locations in each neighborhood, and publicizing the event city-wide with tens of thousands of posters & programs, earned media stories, concert listings with our media partners, an interactive website, and a volunteer street-team.

Who will provide a stage / backline / tuned grand piano / etc for my concert?

Make Music New York is not a typical music festival. Yes, there are some major stages with some major artists, but the true spirit of Make Music New York is that of a holiday: people getting together in their own neighborhoods, creating their own musical events in a do-it-yourself fashion.

Artists and locations collaborate to produce the events, find electricity, and provide whatever equipment is needed.

MMNY provides the framework and helps facilitate the creation of concerts — the rest is up to you! Artists and locations are responsible for producing their own events. This includes finding electricity, and providing whatever equipment is needed.

Unlike most music festivals:

  • New York City itself is your stage. We’re not constructing stages (though some local promoters are doing so — and securing additional permits as needed). Performances generally take place at the same level as the audience.
  • You have complete artistic control. It’s your concert. If you want to perform with a different guitarist than previously announced, or take an extended 20 minute bass solo, you don’t have to ask our permission!
  • Everyone can take part. From professionals to amateurs, from the mainstream to the unfashionably bizarre — if you can find a workable spot for your performance, you can be part of Make Music New York!

How late in the evening can my performance go?

In NYC, no loud or amplified sound is allowed after 10pm. Many areas can only go until 8pm or 9pm. Parks are limited to 4 hours of amplified sound per location.

If your music is unamplified (meaning that you don’t use any electricity), musicians can perform outside until 10pm. If it’s amplified, it depends on where you are.

As a general rule, amplified performances can go until 9pm. Some neighborhoods cut off sound permits at 8pm; others can go until 10pm; and in some areas, it depends on exactly where the concert will be. Sign up with your preference, and we will let you know what we can do.

Parks are limited to 4 hours of amplified sound per location; other spaces can go all day.

Within these guidelines (which are set by the City of New York), your performance can go as long as you want.

Can I really perform as long as I want? What if I want to perform Wagner’s entire Ring Cycle?

Better get an early start. And find a venue that doesn’t want to schedule more than one act.

How can I close my street for a block party concert?

Dozens of community organizations close off streets around the city for block party concerts. If your group wishes to produce a concert in the street, you must file an application with your local community board by March 21st. For more details, download our guide, “How To Apply For a Make Music New York Block Party” (pdf). Before submitting an application, please email us at info@makemusicny.org and briefly describe your plans, so that we can coordinate your event with others in the area.

What if I play an instrument, but don’t have my own band?

Join one of our “Mass Appeal” events! For the seventh year, we are organizing hundreds of musicians to band together to perform massive pieces written for a single type of instrument. Each performance works differently, depending on the genre, the instrument, and the location. To learn more, go to our Mass Appeal page.

How do I curate a show with multiple artists? Or, what if I want to play on the same show as my friends?

Each artist should sign up separately — we need to have a unique musical description and web address for everyone. Then have each one match themselves to the same location, at different time slots. If the entire program has a particular theme or title, put that in the location’s description box.

What will MMNY do to help promote my concert?

We list all concerts on the Make Music New York website (with descriptions and artist websites), in the Metro New York newspaper, and in copies of our MMNY program, distributed citywide. Media partners Metro New York, WNYC and WQXR drive traffic to our listings. We pitch stories about concerts to the press (see the articles on our press page). We also provide personalized, dynamically created PDF fliers for each artist and location to download and use once your performance(s) are confirmed.

At the same time, we are counting on musicians and locations to promote their own shows, in all the ways that they normally would — sending out email blasts, putting notices on websites, calling up all of their friends, etc. Everyone who signs up on our matchmaking website describes what they will do for promotion.

What if my ensemble signs up now, and has to back out later?

Once your event is confirmed by your chosen location and by Make Music New York, we will block off your spot and pay for your permits. We are counting on you to perform! If you do need to cancel, it is your responsibility to find another performer to take your spot. Please let the location – and us – know about all program changes ASAP.

Can MMNY performers sell CDs, or ask for donations?

Musicians are not allowed to solicit donations, nor can we provide the permits to allow vending at your event. On the other hand, musicians are encouraged to pass out fliers to promote their upcoming shows and recordings, ask listeners to sign their mailing list, and generally promote themselves.

Can I charge admission for a Make Music New York concert?

All Make Music New York concerts are free, outdoors, and open to the public.

No.

Can my concert be “invitation only”?

No.

Can I create a MMNY event that does not include any live music?

No.

Can I have my event indoors?

Only if it rains (see above).

Can I perform outside the five boroughs for MMNY?

Our permits, coordination, and promotions only cover the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. There are Make Music events all over the world on June 21st, and you are welcome to perform wherever you wish, but be aware of whatever regulations and permit issues apply outside NYC. We are Make Music New York.

I’d like to take full advantage of Make Music New York and perform all over town!

Scheduling more than one performance is fine. However, please allow reasonable time for travel and set-up if you plan to perform more than once.

What is Make Music Winter?

Make Music Winter, first launched in 2011, is a free, outdoor musical event each December 21st that turns audiences into music makers. Inspired by Phil Kline’s annual Unsilent Night – the boombox parade that has become an international tradition – Make Music Winter transforms New York’s cityscape with twelve participatory musical parades on the winter solstice, running the gamut of musical genres.

How can I join one of the parades?

Each parade is different. For some, you need to bring a particular instrument, or download sheet music or an iPhone app in advance; for others, you can just show up. All of them feature some way to musically participate; check out the description of each event before you go.

How can I book my band for Make Music Winter?

Unlike the June MMNY festival, Make Music Winter is a series of mobile, participatory events. If you have an ensemble that can play while walking in the cold, and your music fits into one of the parade structures, get in touch with the relevant parade organizer and let them know what you have in mind. On the other hand, if you need to plug in instruments or stay in one place, you’ll probably need to wait until June.

I have a great idea for a new winter parade I’d like to work on; what should I do?

Email james@makemusicny.org

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