While Austin is home to plenty of music venues and a high number of bands, the Live Music Capital of the World may not have legitimate claim to that title any longer.
Austin is actually fifth in the nation on a recent list of U.S. cities that are best for music, a marked decline from prior years. While this fact gives us room to improve, Austin still placed first when ranked for best music cities in the Southwest, according to big data analysis company ValuePenguin.
Losing the top spot to industry cities such as Los Angeles and Nashville hurts terribly, particular when we remember that our city hosts one of the biggest music industry conferences in the country, as well as a few big name festivals. Sadly, this wasn’t enough to give Austin the boost we needed. In fact, we lost the “Best Music Festival” category to Honolulu and Madison, two much smaller cities with far less economic activity than Austin.
Perhaps the most worrisome finding that ValuePenguin unearthed from the data is our number of employed musicians. On that list, Austin placed a stunning 46th place. While this number is troubling, it may also be expected. Forced out by rising rents all over town, Austin’s music scene is shrinking for a fundamental reason: Few professional musicians can afford to live within the city limits.
The good news is that the city is doing something about this situation, or trying to anyway. However, affordable housing and low-rent venues are hard to come by in this city. Thankfully there is still a large, engaged community of creative minds here, so the damage could still be undone if we act soon.
“Your council members are eager to hear your ideas,” Jennifer Houlihan, executive director of Austin Music People, said at a recent council meeting. “Pick up the phone, or send an email, or better yet, show up at a meeting. You’d be surprised how far that will take you.”
There are a few positive things to note, however. Austin remains strong when it comes to the statewide music scene. Other nearby cities, such as San Antonio and Lubbock, have strong scenes by Texas standards, but Austin remains atop the list of Texas music cities. Added bonus: Thanks to our relatively low crime rate (compared to other major Texas cities), our musicians’ gear is still mostly safe from thieves. The same cannot be said for Houston.
Saving Country Music recently ran a story about how Houston has become the “Stolen Music Gear Capital” of the world, due to the heavy amount of music gear stolen from musicians during their off hours. It has gotten so bad that many bands are debating whether to perform in the city or head to other cities in the state that are safer for their equipment. The upside for our sister city is that Houston police and the Department of Homeland Security busted 130 people this week, in what they claim to be a sting on an organized crime ring that patrolled the city looking for musicians in particular.
It may hurt to say it, but we have some work to do in Austin before we can truly bill ourselves “The Live Music Capitol of the World” again. Let’s get busy. We love Austin, which is why we won’t accept anything less than #1.
Featured photo: Austin NME
If you would like to check out more news posts from Lauren Gribble, check out her website Listen Here Reviews.