Pass The Mic

New Austin music census launches to amplify local artist's voices

New Austin music census launches to amplify local artist's voices

Austin skyline South Congress
It will measure social, economic, and ideological sentiments across the Greater Austin music industry. Photo by Jeremy Woodhouse/Getty Images

Delayed from its planned June 20 release for final tweaks, the Greater Austin Area Music Census is now off to record the needs of local industry professionals. From July 15 to August 15, it will collect information anonymously, to establish new community data for the first time in seven years.

The census is conducted via online form, and is available to any self-described music professionals in Travis and surrounding counties, including musicians, venue owners, nonprofits, government agency members, and anyone with a role “in any music-related product or service industry.” Fans are the only group that the platform requests do not apply, along with a friendly note of thanks. (The 2015 census removed nearly a third of final responses, which it deemed not eligible or incomplete.)

The last music census laid out a 235-page analysis with the majority of responses (60 percent) being from musicians. As in many discussions, even now, about musicians’ experience in the Live Music Capital, it focused largely on income and affordability. It confirmed that the majority of musicians earn under both the average and median wages for Austinites in general.

Still, most (60 percent) had been living in Austin for 11 years or more, sparking a growing question in Austin cultural media: what exactly is keeping musicians here? Pause/Play — a local NPR podcast that seeks input from local music professionals and could be considered an unofficial census of its own — has tackled this question in the past year with episodes focused on housing, supplemental income, and government funds. Like the podcast, the census is more focused on tracking values within the industry than identifying solutions at this stage.

"Since nobody had really done a census of that sort in 2015, we needed to establish some baseline understandings," says Long Center vice president of programs and community outreach Bobby Garza, who helped organize the census. "We know more than we used to, especially with the help of the first census and the ongoing conversations that it sparked. We want to know some variations of those similar questions to see how much progress we've made and see what part still needs to be done."

This announcement comes from the office of Mayor Steve Adler, Pause/Play co-parent station KUTX, and equity nonprofit EQ Austin. For help gathering participants, the polling organizations have enlisted more than 50 community partners including the organization implementing the data collection, Sound Music Cities.

Other partners also include organizations commonly seen in these pro bono spaces such as the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, the SIMS Foundation, Black Fret, the Long Center, and the Recording Academy Texas Chapter. Others still are much smaller organizations, and the organizers are still accepting inquiries about new partnerships. Just as the data collection has been a community effort, there is no one organization tasked with implementing solutions once the data has been analyzed.

"I hope that this generates community conversations like it did last time," says Garza. "It's incumbent upon all of us to come [together] and think about what the solutions are ... so we can have some self determination. I think that's the best part. And then I think that the hope is that leaders will hear us...from an economic development perspective and from a city policy perspective."

To complete the survey between July 15 and August 15, visit austinmusiccensus.org.