Since this is Austin, our focus on affordability must also deal with challenges in our local music industry. SXSW and ACL are booming, but we’re losing creatives as we lose creative opportunities in an ever-more-expensive city.
We must manage growth to help live music in the Live Music Capital of the World. If we fail, Austin will never produce another Willie Nelson, Stevie Ray Vaughan or Manuel Donley. Affordable music venues are incubators that allowed Grupo Fantasma, Spoon, and Gary Clark Jr. to develop their craft before launching on the world.
These industries are in a crisis, but it might also be a remarkable opportunity. As a tech center, we have an opportunity to leverage this capacity to develop new ways for the music industry to make money in uniquely Austin ways. If we can come up with new ways to play entire genres of music, if we can reinvent entire audiences for music, then why can’t we come up with an Austin way for musicians to make more money?
Austin became a tech center in the first place because George Kozmetsky – the late UT business school dean – focused Austin on the intersection of business, government, and academia. This created the critical mass of collaboration that made us one of the world’s leading tech cities. It’s why the chip factories were built here in the first place, and it’s why today we have the infrastructure to foster new innovations.
I think we are at a “Kozmetsky Moment” now for Austin’s local music industry. The music industry does not have things so figured out that there isn’t room for Austin to rank alongside London, Los Angeles, and Nashville as one of the world capitals of the music industry. If we’re going to succeed, we’ll need to do things the Austin way by maximizing our strengths as a tech city.
One way we’re using innovation to help us find new ways to solve old problems how we plan to preserve some iconic music venues. This spring we will roll out a crowd sourced mini-bond program that would allow thousands of us to invest together in a community effort to preserve music venues.
There will be more new ideas to help drive the change. In fact, I’m pleased to highlight just one more example of how the tech community is creating new opportunities for the local music industry. It’s an app created right here in Austin called “TipCow.”
One of the inventors came up with the idea when he was out listening to live music and wanted to tip the band but didn’t have any cash on him. He looked at his phone and thought, “If I can order a pizza with this, why can’t I tip the band?”
Now, if you download TipCow, you can tip the band regardless of whether you’re at the show. Anyone with a phone can stream a show with a link to TipCow, and that means the band’s audience – and customer base – is now anywhere in the world.
It’s easy, it’s creative, and it’s a perfectly Austin way to pay musicians. You can’t expect someone to make it as a working musician in Austin if you’re not willing to pay them for their work.