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Adler Offers Ideas for Tuning Up Austin's Music Scene

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez for KUTX
While festivals like Austin City Limits and SXSW have been raking in revenue, local venues have suffered over the past few years.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced Friday morning a series of proposals he believes will strengthen the city’s music industry and help musicians keep making their art.

It costs more to live in Austin. It costs more to make music in Austin. Some venues have closed, and others have changed ownership. According to a report paid for by the trade association and music industry advocate Austin Music People, 1,200 music industry jobs went away over a recent four-year period. Austin Mayor Steve Adler sees a problem here.

“We’re just not going to be the Live Music Capital of the World for much longer if we keep losing musicians and music venues,” Adler says.

And Adler thinks he might have a solution. In official terms, it’s an “omnibus resolution” —basically, a bunch of ideas for the city management to study and consider implementing.

How many ideas?

“There are a lot of them,” he says. “Identifying best practices from leading music cites, streamlining the permitting process with entertainment licenses, leveraging a larger role for the Austin Music Office...”

It really is a long list. A lot of these ideas on Adler’s list were included in a white paper released by Austin Music People last yearto address issues raised in the city's recent Austin Music Census. Jennifer Houlihan, the head of Austin Music People, brought her ideas to Adler. 

“We had expected, here are two things and maybe he’d pick one. And I guess we had really done our homework. He was interested in pretty much everything we proposed,” she says.  

But, why should the city support private businesses like music venues? Or prop up artists who can’t survive on their own? Maybe people just don’t like their music, or maybe the venue fails because the drinks are bad and the lines to the bathroom are too long. If people really love the music, shouldn’t it be able to survive on its own?

“What we would say is we’re not looking for handouts. We’re looking for partners. And we’re looking for public-private partnerships. And we’re looking for support that music can stand on its own,” Houlihan says.

Adler agrees the city’s looking for “things like that.”

“We just can’t sit by, we have to be creative, and it’s those kinds of ideas I think that have promise.”

This is still at an early stage. Any ordinance drafted by city staff would have to be adopted by city council. 

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