LIVE MUSIC ECOLOGY AND ECONOMY IN AUSTIN, TX
Why is Live Music Important to Cities?
Live music in Austin is part of a cultural tourism ecosystem, made up of the city’s music, service and hospitality sectors like music venues, bars, restaurants, retail and hotels.
Live music not only creates jobs and incubates creative entrepreneurs (musicians), it drives growth.
• Live music had an ~$2B economic impact to Austin pre-pandemic
• Live music venues/theaters are force-multipliers for investment, with a Chicago study showing that for every $1 spent in music spaces, $12 are spent in surrounding businesses
• The Austin Tourism Commission has identified live music as the single biggest contributor to desirability, livability and growth for the City of Austin
• Live music delivers Austin’s brand promise as “The Live Music Capital of the World” 24/7
What’s the Challenge?
In spite of prevailing public perspectives, music cultural tourism workers and space operators/owners are largely low income.
Austin, like many growing cities world-wide, has seen an increasing wealth gap between workers income and real costs of living, which is holistically called Affordability.
Audience income has also not grown fast enough to competitively pass full costs along to consumers, in terms of concessions and tickets in Austin.
Before COVID-19, in spite of year-after-year industry growth, our industry was in crisis.
Private investment, public support and industry innovation are needed to preserve our creative sector and to save the music soul of our city.
MUSIC VENUE DEFINITION
In 2016, the RRCD contributed to a city-wide live music venue roundtable that helped to define “live music venue” in Austin, not only to acknowledge the industry perspective on standards in Austin, but as importantly to create a “definition” that has allowed us to successfully educate and advocate city leaders about music ecology and economic needs.
The following definition also lives on our music venue advocacy partner’s website, Music Venue Alliance Austin.
Defining a cultural asset requires a general “common sense” reading that can be flexible over time. Verifiable elements must show that music is the primary driver of business, and/or the business is a music destination. This can be shown by the existence of a combination of factors that show a relationship with the musicians that does not exist in businesses that provide music as atmosphere.
1) This begins with a process by which the venue clearly articulates to the artist the ability of an artist to receive payment for work by percentage of sales (bar and/or door cover) i.e. sales performance payment, guarantee (in writing) i.e. standard contract, or another mutually beneficial formal agreement, and
2) A factor test.
A retail business that is a destination for live music consumers and its music programming is the primary driver of its business, as indicated by the presence of at least five (5) of the following:
(1) defined performance and audience space,
(2) mixing desk, PA system, and lighting rig,
(3) back line,
(4) at least two of: sound engineer, booker, promoter, stage manager, security personnel,
(5) applies cover charge to some music performance through ticketing or front door entrance fee,
(6) marketing of specific acts through gig listings in printed and/or electronic publications,
(7) hours of operation coincide with performance times,
(8) produces music performances at least five (5) days a week.
Music Advocacy Partners
Austin Texas Musicians https://www.austintexasmusicians.org
C3 Presents https://www.c3presents.com
EQ Austin https://www.eqaustin.org
Music Venue Alliance https://www.musicvenueallianceaustin.com
The Amplified Sound Coalition https://www.theamplifiedsoundcoalition.org