Biz could head eastward

NEW YORK — Bringing the Grammy Awards back to New York after a four-year absence was a major coup for the Big Apple, but it may also be part of an even bigger shift in the music biz from west to east.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other local officials pulled out all the stops to bring the Grammys to Madison Square Garden next February — a coup that could generate as much as $40 million for the city.

“From where I sit, the two Mikes — (Recording Academy chief) Greene and Bloomberg — have really come through for New York,” says Sony Music chief Tommy Mottola.

But there also are signs that the industry as a whole may be following in the Grammys’ footsteps.

EMI said recently it will move Virgin Records to New York from Beverly Hills, in part to capitalize on Gotham’s strong urban music scene.

Island Def Jam, long the leader in that genre, has always called New York home, despite the Santa Monica address of its parent, Universal Music (whose CEO, Doug Morris, incidentally, is a die-hard Gothamite).

Consolidation also is playing a part. The giant congloms that own the five music majors all have their U.S. headquarters in New York, and many are looking to gather their far-flung units closer to the fold, says entertainment lawyer Steven Beer.

“These businesses are multifaceted,” Beer says. “The labels are much more corporate-oriented than they have been, and they’re moving closer to corporate center.”

Likewise, there are forces aligning in the California legislature that could prompt still more eastward migration. Several labels are said to be mulling a change of address if burgeoning efforts to limit the term of artists’ contracts to seven years come to fruition.

Financially, more music in town — especially a marquee event like the Grammys — is very good news for New York, which is keen to woo new businesses and keep old ones from leaving town in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks. Such an influx would offer a much-needed boost to Gotham’s travel and entertainment industries, which have been beaten down by blunted tourism.

“Every day this place is a madhouse when the Grammys are in town,” says a staffer at one five-star midtown hotel. “It’s great to see the people coming back.”

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