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What happens to the live music capital of the world when there’s no live music?

Here's why Austin's Queen of Soul, Taméca Jones, is leaving for LA

Tameca Jones
Patricia Lim
/
KUTX
Taméca Jones says she has struggled being an Black female musician in Austin.

Singer Taméca Jones stepped up to the podium at a meeting of the Austin Music Commission earlier this month to speak about her experience as a Black female artist working in Austin and to encourage commissioners to approve a framework for a new Live Music Fund.

She also shared her plans to leave the Live Music Capital of the World.

“I will be moving to Los Angeles, a city that's less affordable and more crowded than Austin,” she said. “That is how disenchanted I am with Austin and its music scene.”

Jones has been playing live music here for well over a decade. She started at the Elephant Room, interpreting other people’s songs. Then she moved to the Continental Club Gallery, where she gained a following and began playing original music. She eventually became known as Austin’s Queen of Soul and was able to make a living as a musician.

“100% of my income was definitely live music,” Jones said.

Jones was born and raised in Austin, but moved to New Braunfels about 20 years ago after becoming pregnant with twins. Music provided her the flexibility to maintain a career.

“I really appreciate what [Austin] has done for me,” she said. “It's made it possible for me to raise twins as a single parent with that income.”

But it hasn’t been easy.

“It has been a struggle in this town as a Black woman, as someone who doesn't play guitar, as someone who doesn't sing the blues,” she said.

Her experience is reflected in data from the Austin Music Census.

Of the roughly 2,100 musicians who responded to the census, only 80 said they played hip-hop; 43 played dance or electronic music. The biggest genres represented were rock, Americana and alternative -- all of which emphasize guitar.

Only about 20% of the respondents were women. Only 4.4% identified as Black. In contrast, 10.4% identified as Hispanic, and 66% identified as white.

As an independent artist, Jones said, she’s simply burned out.

“When you're a DIY artist, when you have no manager, when you have no agent -- you have to do everything yourself,” she said. “It’s just all these hats you have to wear, and it just breaks your neck, you know? The weight of all these hats.”

Jones said she’s been looking for support and opportunities outside of playing live, but she hasn’t been able to find that in Austin.

“There's a very low ceiling here in Austin because there's no industry,” she said. “It’s the Live Music Capital but there is very little industry or sync or licensing or record deals or managers or booking agents.”

Jones will be playing one of her final shows in Austin on Friday at the Continental Club.

To hear more of Taméca Jones’ story, listen to the latest episode of Pause/Play by clicking the listen button above. 

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