We’ve all heard the stories about the heyday of the Austin music scene. When shows went into the wee hours of the morning because downtown condo dwellers weren’t demanding noise ordinances. When musicians could make $500-plus at a gig off tips alone.
Austin’s music community has suffered some serious blows over the years, and a new report from Austin Music People (AMP) urges action from the city to preserve and protect local music.
The 2016 study from AMP takes a look at the economic impact of the music industry using data from 2010 to 2014. The good news? In four years, the total music industry economic impact rose from $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion. This is mainly attributed to Austin's many festivals, specifically the addition of Austin City Limits Music Festival's second weekend and Austin360 Amphitheater's ability to host larger scale events.
But here’s the bad news: The impact of primary music — defined as "the year-round economic activity by local artists, venues, and business" — declined more than 15 percent ($856 million in 2010 compared to $726 million in 2014). That equates to a decrease of $130 million and a loss of more than 1,200 local music industry jobs.
"We’ve sounded this alarm before, and we keep coming back with more data that says Austin music needs attention if we are to continue to be an economic driver for this region," said Bobby Garza, general manager of Transmission Events and AMP board chair, in a release.
"Music tourism is up a bit, which certainly helps some folks. But we’ve lost 1,200 music jobs, affecting real people with real families and real bills," said Jennifer Houlihan, AMP executive director. "It’s long past time that our city’s policies and resources become aligned with our city’s stated values."
Known for its creative culture, Austin is in jeopardy with affordability challenges facing all sectors of the city, from real estate to arts and entertainment. AMP points to the fact that many in the music industry can’t make a living and can’t afford to live within the city limits.
"If we continue to fail in our support of the local music industry, then being the Live Music Capital means visitors can come here for the weekend, spend a few dollars, see a festival, enjoy a restaurant, maybe visit a gallery or buy some locally designed clothing — and leave," warned Garza.
"But there will be no music left for those who still live here in Austin, no places to perform it, no artists to create it, and no businesses to support them — and as they leave town, the tourists and the festivals will follow."
Even though Austin's good ol’ days have come and gone, there are still groups like Austin Music People and Austin Music Commission and initiatives from the city working to ensure that the future of Austin music can thrive. But as individuals we can also show our support by visiting venues, getting involved with music nonprofits, and listening to live music around town (and, call us crazy, paying the cover and leaving a tip).