Music Matters

Austin's reputation as the Live Music Capital of the World is in danger

Austin's reputation as Live Music Capital of the World is in danger

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Affordability issues are pushing musicians out of Austin. Photo by Daniel Cavazos

KVUE — A new music industry census commissioned by the City of Austin shows that the rising cost of living is forcing some musicians out of the city.

The unlimited number of venues to play in Austin coupled with year-round festivals drew soul singer Nakia to the city in 2002. "The live music that was at every corner, the opportunity that [was] presented to me as a musician to be able to perform seven days a week if I wanted to," he recalled.

Beyond entertainment, the music industry pumps billions of dollars into Austin's economy. The city commissioned a census to get an idea of what's happening with its music and musicians. Data was collected through 4,000 surveys from people in various aspects of the industry. The results were mixed. In some aspects, the music scene is strong and growing, but many artists are in trouble.

"With all the traveling expenses, and then parking and the venues not paying and stuff like that, I stopped doing as many shows," artist Jared Cuellar said. Cuellar is a rapper who goes by the name Hades. He has to work two additional jobs and can no longer afford to live in Austin.

"We've got affordability issues that are, not surprisingly, an issue for lots of folks, especially musicians. We also have an issue with stagnating income," said Nikki Rowling, founder and CEO of Titan Music Group, the consulting firm that conducted the study.

The census uncovered affordability is not only impacting musicians, but also the venues that book them. Holy Mountain, a popular venue in the Red River Cultural District, is up for lease.

"We see a lot of people who can't afford to keep their venues open who are the folks that are actually supporting us," Nakia said. He also cited the closing of Headhunters Club in 2014, and said that both venues hosted local artists in addition to national acts, which is becoming more and more rare.

The census study provides suggestions to help improve the industry, including adding dedicated affordable housing and creating formal entertainment districts.

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Read the full story at KVUE.com