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Austin calls on musicians to identify issues in the city's famed music scene

Julia Reihs
Members of the Austin music community rally at City Hall in September 2020, demanding support for the industry, which was hit hard by the pandemic.

Music is essential to the character of Austin, famously known as "The Live Music Capital of the World." The industry is not immune to challenges, though.

The City of Austin and a group of more than 50 community partners — including KUT's sister station, KUTX — released a music census Friday to attempt to better understand issues the community is facing. Previously, concerns have included low wages and a lack of accessibility.

"I think we know, anecdotally, that there's some stagnation of wages," said Bobby Garza, vice president of programs and community outreach for the Long Center, one of the community partners. "There's an inflexibility in ticket prices. People's interest in paying an average ticket price hasn't really changed in the last couple of decades."

The census is anonymous. Participants will be asked about how they view diversity, equity and inclusion in the Austin music scene, along with questions about their personal experiences. Depending on how detailed a participant's answers are, the census should take 10-20 minutes to complete.

Garza said he hopes the census will allow the city and its partners to pinpoint where the problems are in the industry, and hopefully, use the information to find solutions.

"I've always benefited from the utilization of data and measurement to be able to provide really cogent policy solutions," he said.

Garza said it's time to "establish a new baseline." The city's first census, in 2015, found that one-fifth of Austin's musicians lived below the federal poverty line. Since then, musicians have endured many unforeseen challenges, like the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Austin continues to grow, Garza said, the importance of making sure the industries that make it unique stay prosperous.

“Music is an industry in this town," he said, "and we need to think about it from an economic development standpoint, to figure out what series of measures we can provide that will foster and promote healthy business development."

Though fans may have good ideas, only musicians and those who work directly in the music industry can take part in the census. The census is also restricted to those who live in the greater Austin metro area (including Travis, Hays, Williamson, Caldwell and Bastrop counties). The city wants to get the most accurate data about what issues those in the industry are facing.

The census closes on Sept. 9, and results will be released later in 2022. To participate, click here.

Updated: August 15, 2022 at 11:57 AM CDT
This story was updated to reflect the deadline to participate in the census has been extended to Sept. 9.
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