Austin music is hitting the high notes at last —
August 6, 2020

Austin music is hitting the high notes at last

By Gavin L Garcia

The term “struggling musician” has taken on a whole new meaning in Austin. The music industry is at a pivotal point. Conscious decision making is required.

Mayor Steve Adler, after considering opinions from numerous stakeholders, recently introduced the Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution to help regenerate music and the arts.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler
Austin Mayor Steve Adler

In the commercial music field, advocates have spent years examining and addressing issues that have long challenged the industry. The result has been studies like the Austin Music Census, Austin Music People’s White Papers, the Economic Impact of Austin Music Study and now City resolution No. 20160303-xxx.

“We don’t need a study to tell us that Austin’s local music industry has suffered under the affordability crisis or that creatives or artists in this city, like so many, are suffering,” said Mayor Adler at the press conference to announce the resolution. “But the news that we had lost 1,200 jobs in the music industry since 2010 was sobering.”

Our music industry is fortunate to have strong organizations advocating on its behalf, like Austin Music People and the Austin Music Foundation, and individuals who were instrumental in offering the Mayor suggestions in drafting his resolution, including past Austin Music Commission Chairs Brad Spies and Brad Stein, Bobby Garza, Jennifer Houlihan, Lindsey Sokol, Graham Reynolds and Frank Rodriguez from the Mayor’s Office.

The Music Commission, with 11 members representing all points of Austin, will do its part to ensure we engage our entire music community to get involved with finding solutions, as well as work with elected officials for necessary resources.

We’ll be seeking private-public partnerships and creative ideas to boost the music economy, including:

  • Leverage a larger role for the Austin Music Office. The Music Office needs to find the right balance of its permitting duties and economic development mission. The majority of Don Pitts and his staff’s time is spent on permitting issues. There’s other work to be done, from entertainment licenses to exporting to studying best practices from music capitals.
  • Develop new music consumers and protect assets. Venues are the lifeblood of music; they serve as the incubator for artists. In addition to marketing to tourists (festivals are flourishing), we need to drive local residents to clubs to keep most of them operating. That will mean encouraging the millennial demographic, ethnic minorities and other groups to support emerging talent. It will mean promoting local music across all 10 City Council Districts. In other words, this isn’t just a “downtown issue” but one that shapes our collective identity.
  • Encourage inclusivity and a diverse arts community. Some sectors have been historically marginalized in the Arts. African-Americans, Anglos and Latino communities have too often worked independently of one another. That will now be addressed through genre development and other initiatives.

The City Council has directed City Manager Marc Ott to “explore options for implementation of the goals and objectives described in the resolution.” The plan of action will be presented to the City Council Economic Opportunity Committee in 90 days. Then, let’s hope, the child is born.




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