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What Can Austin Do to Support Its Musicians?

Austin Anderson/Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Musicians are leaving Austin because the city's no longer affordable for them. Austin mayor Steve Adler is holding a forum to discuss a potential crisis in Austin's music industry.

From Texas Standard:

Austin bills itself as the “Live Music Capital” of the world. But a flood of newcomers to the city has produced some dire consequences for the very people who've earned the city that title – the musicians who can no longer afford to live there.

Mayor Steve Adler says the city has reached a tipping point. 


He, along with other city leaders, will meet for a forum this week called "The Crisis of Music in Austin." And one man they've invited could provide the keys to keeping Austin the state's top music city by keeping its musicians.

Ted Gioia, a music historian based in Dallas and author of “How to Listen to Jazz,” says many cities are facing the same problem.

"They're a victim of their own success,” Gioia says. “Austin has many great things going for it. It's got a vibrant economy. It's got a lot of economic activity happening in music and elsewhere and that pushes up cost of living. Some musicians struggle to afford to live there. You also have venues shutting down."

Gioia says the shifts to the city’s musical landscape is a challenge, but not necessarily a sign that anything is being done incorrectly.

"Austin actually is better positioned than most cities because it has a vibrant ecosystem and a lot of musicians live in Austin – prefer to live in Austin,” he says. “But still you need to nurture every aspect of the ecosystem."

Gioia says ways to nurture musicians could include more practice rooms for musicians, mentoring programs, housing support and better networking for part-time, flexible jobs.

In cities with vibrant music economies around the world, Gioia says businesses that help musicians out can thrive and Austin has those resources.

"Austin is the only music city in the United States that's also a technology center,” Gioia says. “Austin is the only music city in the world that also has a network of entrepreneurs. … The single most important thing – and Austin has it in spades – is a love of music. If you just treat music as an economic formula, you're not going to optimize what you need to do. So one of the most encouraging things about Austin is ... how passionate people are about music as part of their identity.”

Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

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