10 takeaways from the Greater Austin Music Census

update from the band

Photo by Jeremy Doddridge on Unsplash

In July of 2022, the Greater Austin Music Census called out to industry professionals and Austinites answered — that is, 2,260 of them, anyway. This was the first major data collection since 2014, and responses dropped from the 3,968 of the previous study.

The 2023 study attributes this more selective response to “survey fatigue” from the pandemic, among other factors, but notes that it still achieved good diversity. The completion rate, or amount of the survey filled, was well beyond the industry standard (71 percent compared to 42), further indicating more quality than quantity in this round of responses.

“Having this data gives us insights into what we are doing right in Austin for our music sector as well as areas for improvement,” said local musician Nagavalli Medicharla in a press release. Medicharla is the Board Chair for EQ Austin, one of the partners in conducting the census. “We are grateful that the music community came together to represent the diverse voices of our city and look forward to any positive shifts that may arise in the local industry with this new data set.”

Using this data, especially in comparison with that of 2014, the census produced 10 main takeaways:

1: “In the composition of our ecosystem, music creatives are increasing.” The study was open to anyone with a tangential involvement in the music industry. (Yours truly took the survey as someone who writes about music.) This time, it found that creatives represented a greater share of respondents as compared to venues and other industry professionals, including recording engineers as the largest category (43 percent), followed by marketing (31 percent), and production support (31 percent). There is overlap because many industry players occupy multiple roles.

2, 3, and 4: “Housing costs are both shrinking the ecosystem and pushing it outside central Austin,” and the dominance of downtown is shrinking slightly in favor of “satellite communities.” “The fastest growing areas for music people” are not in Austin. The study found that 38 percent of respondents struggle to afford housing, and recorded population decreases in a wide swath in the middle of Austin, when represented by zip code on a map. About a third of respondents indicated that they are considering leaving not just the city, but the Greater Austin area. Further, money is being made in increasingly wider circles, and the post-pandemic ecosystem is different for it. People are mostly expanding into San Marcos, Pflugerville, Manor, Buda, Bastrop, Round Rock, and Kyle.

5, 6, and 7: Identities are moving from the traditional norm with more “Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color (BIPOC)” respondents and fewer males “while females held steady.” “Fewer younger people are entering the industry, shrinking the industry overall.” The gap in gender (the share of men dropping from 71 percent to 62 percent) was filled by non-binary respondents as well as those who preferred not to share their gender or preferred a description that was not offered. The chart seems to indicate that there was not an option for respondents to select these non-male or female answers in 2014. The racial categories were better fleshed out in 2014, but this time added MENA (Middle Eastern or North African) to possible choices, garnering only 0.6 percent of the total. Although respondents were overwhelmingly white, Hispanic applicants and those who preferred not to answer were the next largest categories — both years significantly outnumbering Black participants. The largest age disparity was in the 25-to-39-year range, which dropped from nearly half of respondents, closer to a third, still remaining dominant.

8 and 9: The local scene is “interdependent, comprehensive, and synergistically strong” with “60 percent of [what creatives are annually spending on their craft] spent locally ($6,300).” Live gigs around town are still the most important source of income for creatives, but most respondents had multiple streams. Not only did responses indicate more diverse incomes since 2014, they also reported doing better in all but one category: ironically, live gigs, specifically on the road. The simple majority of respondents are playing one to three paid shows per month, which has stayed about steady, although the study did conclude that the number of paid local shows has dropped off overall, mostly represented by those more active in the live scene.

10: “The community is more positive than negative about most adjective pairs tested.” Respondents were asked to view pairs of opposite adjectives (e.g. “hostile/friendly") and decide to what extent they thought each applied. The most strongly positive response showed that people thought the community is not homophobic, while the most negative showed that most people think the community is elitist. In some cases, like the issue of homophobia, a large percentage of respondents (72.5 percent heterosexual) may be overly optimistic due to being unskilled at recognizing signs of a problem. A breakdown of the “sexist/non-sexist pair” shows that, predictably, women found the scene more sexist than men did. Similarly, those without health insurance found the scene to be most elitist.

Although most studies of the music industry — in Austin or elsewhere — will overwhelmingly be skewed toward the opinions of white male players, this collaborative breakdown offers insight into more diverse needs than its predecessor. Given the prevalence of housing concerns, it also centers an issue that carries implications for the actual landscape of the Live Music Capital.

More information about the discoveries listed above, plus more regarding healthcare and opinions on industry practices, is available at austinmusiccensus.org.

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NASCAR driver Ross Chastain aims for 3rd career win at Circuit of the Americas


After his first-ever Cup victory at Circuit of the Americas in 2022, this eighth generation Central Florida watermelon farmer turned NASCAR driver is looking to nab his third career win at the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix in Austin on March 26.

Trackhouse Racing star Ross Chastain is currently third in the points heading into the race weekend; just four points behind Christopher Bell (second), and five behind Joey Logano (current leader). Chastain finished second behind Logano in the 2022 Cup Series Championship.

The tight standings make for a thrilling weekend at COTA, where Chastain earned his first career win just last year. He says driving on the 3.41-mile road course feels “opposite” to him than what he’s used to with a typical 1.5-mile oval track. He's been making left-only turns since he was 12 years old, and even on his Florida farm he would navigate the grids of watermelons and turn left at the end of every row. Learning to navigate a road course meant seeking help from others who might have better experience.

“I went to driving schools [and] I went to older and other drivers to teach me and give me advice on the simple art of driving a race car at its limit to the right, and COTA’s no different,” he tells CultureMap. “It’s – to me – very ironic that we got our first Cup Series win at a road course.”

Many race car drivers have raised concerns about the bumpy surface of the track, even after parts of it were resurfaced in 2022. For Chastain, he thinks there’s a couple different perspectives a driver can take when it comes to blemished track surfaces. On the one hand, part of him loves the idea of a perfectly smooth track with "symmetrical corners" for him to put down a perfect lap. But the “racing purist” in him also wants to drive on the “worst track possible.”

“I want bumps and cracks, different corners. I want to turn left and right...and just have variety, and COTA is getting that more and more," he says. "Our cars, they bottom out [and] slide...that’s what makes our racing so great is that we are out of control a lot."

Unlike F1 drivers, who tend to be more precise on track, NASCAR drivers use anything and everything to their advantage to get a win, much like Chastain’s straight-from-a-video-game wall-ride move that subsequently got banned at the beginning of January.

COTA might not have a wall to ride, but it does have a 133-foot first turn elevation change. While it can be a challenge for some, it isn’t for Chastain. The high elevation allows him to charge into the corner hard, let gravity slow him down while going uphill, then let the car slide down while heading into turn two.

“I love it. I wish more tracks had more elevation change like [COTA]. It makes the racing more dynamic, and being behind the wheel in the driver’s seat makes it more fun,” he says.

When considering the momentum it will take to score another win, Chastain admits it will be the biggest challenge he’s ever faced, but he’s confident in his ability to carry over that drive and motivation after his 2022 second-place Cup Series finish.

In line with the car’s continuing evolution, as he puts it, a recent aerodynamics change is expected to shake up who ends up at the top of the leaderboard. But his calm demeanor shows he isn’t phased by the changes.

“As simple as it sounds, we race in circles on Sunday afternoons, and this sport is a big circle of teams [and drivers] cycling up, cycling down,” says Chastain. “We’ll have to work harder than ever to try and stay at the top here.”

To kick off the race weekend and initiate some good luck for his Sunday race, Chastain (ever-connected to his roots) will drop watermelons off COTA’s illustrious 251-foot observation tower on Friday, March 24 at 2 pm.

The EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas will run from 2:30-6 pm on Sunday, March 26. More information about the race can be found at circuitoftheamericas.com, and tickets can be purchased at nascaratcota.com.

Former UT football star turns another page in AISD library renovations

Still defending the dream

There’s always more to discover in the world of books, and former Longhorns linebacker Derrick Johnson is making sure there are new places for it, too. The football star, who went on to play for the Chiefs, later created a foundation which has just installed its second “Discovery Den” in Austin at Langford Elementary School, unveiling it on March 23.

Johnson’s Discovery Dens are minor library renovations that include furniture for kids who would like to read together or independently, plus “750 new age-appropriate and culturally relevant books.” Photos also show wall decals of Johnson and encouraging words such as “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

“I’m thrilled to continue our work in Austin and transform Langford Elementary’s library into a space that inspires kids to open a book and their minds for a brighter future,” said Derrick Johnson.

Defend the Dream Foundation — now 11 years old, almost as long as Johnson’s 14-year NFL career — prioritizes low-income and inner city youth in Title I schools to encourage success both in and out of school. Kendra Scott, a well-known Austin-based jewelry designer with frequent philanthropic endeavors, matched the foundation’s contribution to the Langford project as a co-funder.

“Education is a key component of our philanthropy pillar at Kendra Scott, and we’re proud to provide ongoing support for the Defend the Dream Foundation and all the good they do” said Kendra Scott CEO Tom Nolan. “The new library at Langford Elementary will provide the right resources to continue to inspire the future leaders of tomorrow.”

It is also thanks to Austin Ed Fund, a nonprofit education foundation through Austin Independent School District (Austin ISD), that the Dens can be created. The first Austin Discovery Den opened at Oak Springs Elementary School in September of 2022. There are 17 Dens in total across the United States, with multiple in the Chiefs' home of Kansas City.

“We are so grateful to DJ and his foundation for caring about our students and impacting schools in our community,” said Austin Ed Fund executive director Michelle Wallis. “We’ve already seen the positive impact that the Discovery Den has made in Oak Springs Elementary School, and we know that students at Langford Elementary will experience the same excitement in having new books to read in their new library space.”

More information about Defend the Dream Foundation is available at visit derrickjohnsonfoundation.org.

5 noteworthy Austin concerts to catch in the SXSW comedown

Music Notes

South by Southwest's domination of Austin may be done, but that doesn’t mean the music has stopped. See here for a handful of noteworthy shows with local artists that are happening over the next couple of weeks.

Aries Zodiac Party at the Far Out Lounge – Friday, March 24
The Aries Zodiac Party, which is exactly what you think it is, will go down at the Far Out Lounge this Friday, March 24. The event will feature performances by Nolan Potter’s Nightmare Band, Shooks, Sleep Well, and DJ Astral Violet, plus the Austin Witches Market. Tickets are $10, but if you’re an Aries, they’re only $5.

Deer Fellow at Radio Coffee & Beer – Saturday, March 25
Unraveling is the title of Deer Fellow’s new EP, and the indie folk-pop duo will be throwing a release show for it at Radio Coffee & Beer this Saturday, March 25. Support for the evening includes Redbud (solo), Aubrey Hays, and Elijah Delgado. This is a free show.

Futon Blonde at Chess Club – Thursday, March 30
Swing by Chess Club on Thursday, March 30, to help indie rockers Futon Blonde ring in the arrival of their new EP, Something That We’ve All Experienced Together Before. San Gabriel and Trumpeter Swan round out the bill. Tickets for the show are $10.

Glasshealer & Felt Out at Hotel Vegas – Friday, March 31
Hotel Vegas is set to host a double release show on Friday, March 31, as both Glasshealer and Felt Out will be celebrating having just put out brand new singles. God Shell will open for the co-headlining alternative acts. Tickets for the show are $10.

Lord Friday The 13th at Feels So Good – Saturday, April 1
Dust off your cassette player and head to Feels So Good on Saturday, April 1 for trash-glam-punk band Lord Friday the 13th’s tape release party for their Disaster Piece EP. Favor and Grocery Bag will kick off the show. Tickets for the show are $8 in advance, $10 the day of.