A New Way Forward for the Austin Music Industry

“Music is part of the soul of Austin and at the center of a creative ecosystem that is a key pillar of Austin’s economic health and vibrancy.  We must invest in music for the good of our city, its people and our future.” – Steve Adler

As Mayor of Austin, I propose the following priorities:

  • Invest in Local Musicians
  • Invest in the Music Industry Infrastructure of Austin
  • Protect the Music Scene for the Future


Musicians have a harder and harder time living and working in Austin.  The city must do its part to make Austin a place where musicians can thrive.  Here are just a few of the things we can do:

  • Music industry parking solutions in entertainment districts.
  • Noise ordinance reform.  When a passing car can be louder than a musician is allowed to play something is wrong with the system.
  • Expand the resources of the Austin Music Office and its public-private partnership with the Austin Music Foundation so it can become a place for individual musicians for get connected to Austin’s many musician specific services, from SIMS and HAMM to booking agents and managers. We need to support our musicians and artists holistically.
  • Minimize the red tape musicians need to go through to create successful and safe events.
  • Late night buses and trains in music and entertainment districts.
  • Work with the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to develop public-private partnerships to export Austin music.
  • Make Austin more affordable for everyone. The music industry includes not only musicians and artists, but also the associated infrastructure including bartenders, hospitality employees, waitpersons, etc.


Austin is celebrated as the “Live Music Capital of the World.” But, while we tout and market that culture and spirit, our music “industry” pales in comparison to other key music cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville.  The Nashville comparison is particularly troubling as both cities are similarly mid-sized metropolitan areas that have a significant cultural identification with music.  Yet, Nashville’s local music industry provides six times the economic impact of that of Austin ($9.7 billion in Nashville vs. $1.6 billion in Austin) and three times the number of related jobs.[1],[2]

Our City Council has not addressed the billions of dollars of economic opportunity we are currently missing, instead focusing only – and even then only intermittently – on tweaking the already existing industry. Austin needs a mayor who will help to unlock our city’s true potential and elevate Austin’s music industry to match our cultural identity with music.  Our music industry professionals need jobs.  We need our musicians to be able to earn living wages.  As mayor, it is my goal to spur the growth of our local music industry in order to ensure our city’s character and economy for generations to come.


RECRUIT NEW COMPANIES THAT ARE ALREADY IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY.  More music-related jobs of more types will help build the “economic cluster” activity that exists in local music industries of cities like New York and Nashville.  Austin has a great base of live music companies and is a fertile environment for music-related creative industries like technology, gaming, and film.  Plus, we have one of the world’s premiere gatherings of creative professionals every March in SXSW.  With those types of structural advantages coupled with our high quality of life, we should be recruiting more companies that live at the nexus of music and other key industries.  We’ve spent a lot of effort bringing companies like Facebook and Google to Austin; it’s time we put the same type of focus on recruiting companies like Soundcloud, BMI, ASCAP, and Bandcamp.

Facilitate the economic “export” of Austin’s music scene by:

  • Supporting and incentivizing music-related tourism
  • Supporting and incentivizing entrepreneurial endeavors related to music
  • Making Austin an attractive place to live for touring musicians and other industry personnel
  • Celebrating and supporting the health of our iconic local brands (like Austin City Limits (“ACL”) and SXSW)

FIND STRUCTURAL WAYS TO SUPPORT ARTISTS who sit at the center of everything in the music industry and attract other parts of the industry.  Part of supporting artists is finding ways to bridge the gaps between our artists and the rest of the local music industry (venues, promoters, festivals, etc.). Everyone in the music scene is interdependent and we have more common cause than competition. We need to operate that way.


Music in Austin is taken for granted as a part of the fabric that holds the community together.  But from Memphis to Vienna, the world is full of examples of once great music cities that are no longer internationally relevant.  There is no guarantee that Austin music will survive the challenges of rising rents and property taxes, traffic problems, and low pay.  We must do everything in our power to make sure the Austin music scene not only survives, but thrives in the future.  We are at a tipping point and now is the time to act. As Mayor, I shall seek to implement the following policies:

  • As Austin grows, we must make sure that residential projects in the downtown area and entertainment districts accommodate live music.  That means incorporating sound mitigation into construction or building for residents that accept a louder urban ambiance.
  • We must continue to partner with music events, such as SXSW and ACL, to keep these exciting international festivals vibrant.
  • We must bridge the historical gap between music and other cultural arts in Austin, because everyone in Austin’s creative ecosystem has much more that unites them in common cause than divides them.
  • There must be free, large and small scale, high-quality, family friendly concerts and events that make sure great music of varying types and cultures is accessible to all.
  • We must raise public awareness of all the benefits music brings to the city, not just cultural, but also its huge economic impact.

[1] Nashville Chamber of Commerce, Nashville Music Industry (nashvillechamber.com)

[2] Austin Music People, The State of the Austin Music Industry (austinmusicpeople.org)