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Printworks Venue Is Opening In London—And Could Show NYC A Thing Or Two

NYC could do far worse than taking a few pointers from London’s new 16-acre music and events venue.

By Jeff Vasishta November 30, 2016
Photo courtesy of Luke Taylor / Printworks

There was a time when the steady mechanical rhythm of the print presses running up copies of British tabloids was the only vaguely musical sound emanating from the capacious 16 acre building known now as Printworks in East London. However, rhythms of a far more sophisticated nature are due to take up residency in the commercial property, which has been converted to a multi space music and arts mecca in the capitol.

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From art to Afrobeat, jazz to juju, food to funk—all forms of artistic expression will find a home in the venue, which was originally constructed in 1989, during the height of the British “Acid” house movement. Back then, the deafening noise of the print run—the building operated at 110dB as a factory—could challenge the ear drums of the most hardened clubber. This is why it was meticulously soundproofed during construction—a perfect asset for its new incarnation.

There are six event spaces in total. The main focus for clubbers will be on one particular long, narrow room—the chamber for the presses, which will act as the main room for DJ events. It all sounds like a nostalgia-filled trip through UK’s clubland past of the ’80’s and ’90’s, when venues and residences like the Hacienda, Cream and The Ministry of Sound (still going) were in all their pomp. Many New Yorkers who made the pilgrimage over the pond will remember them fondly and raise the inevitable question: What about us?

The Big Apple was undoubtedly the nucleus for all things urban and club related, with historic venues—such as The Paradise Garage, Shelter and  Zanzibar (New Jersey). But that was long ago. Escalating real estate prices and the decimation of the music business have leeched out the the soul of New York’s musical communities, closing hallowed dance floors and recording studios such as The Hit Factory, Chung King and The Magic Shop and sending many of the East Coast’s top songwriters and producers scuttling over to the California sunshine, where most of the record labels are now located.

Clearly, losing one of New York’s most coveted industries hasn’t sat well with many—most notably, in the Mayor’s office.  Last June, the latter hosted “New York City Music Industry Convening,” intended as an industry-wide introductory and brainstorm session to help determine how the city can support the music industry and its creators. The Mayor now has a specific agency to address the problem—the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME.)

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“Everyone was excited that music is now housed within a City agency that, soup to nuts, is going to deal with issues within the music business, both focused on bringing new opportunities to New York City and being supportive of the music industry,” said MOME Commissioner Julie Menin to Billboard Magazine.

High on spirit but low on specifics, clearly, the meeting demonstrated a will to bring the feel-good factor back to the Big Apple. While there are certain realities in play—the music business may never be what it was—New York could do far worse than to take a leaf out of London’s book. Dedicate a building or buildings, with subsidies in tow, to allow musicians to make recordings and perform their craft. It’ll be a start. Mayor de Blasio should give his old Barry White records a spin. One in particular, “Let The Music Play,” may prove inspirational.

 

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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