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Good nicknames and slogans are hard to come by. More often than not, you are labeled with a phrase that defines you in a summation of some of your most embarrassing qualities. However, every once in a while, a slogan comes along that perfectly describes its subject. Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, is just that; a city that thrives on the cultural creativity of music. Venues such as Antone’s, the first club on 6th street in 1975, hosted musicians such as Bono, BB King, and Elvis Costello. Even in the 1990s, newer venues such as Stubbs or Emo’s hosted artists like Johnny Cash. Other newer venues like the Mohawk, Austin Music Hall, and La Zona Rosa are building their own images and hosting relevant new artists. The city has also seen the formation of several music based festivals, Austin City Limits and South by Southwest being the most prominent. Also, Austin has celebrated music through the Austin City Limits television series, which has been running since 1976, making it the longest running music television series in history.
All of the obvious factors that make Austin the Live Music Capital of the World, like the more than 200 live venues, more than 1,900 artists, and enthusiastic support of non-musicians, are only a small part of the importance of music to the foundations of the city. The impact of the live music culture extends into Austin economics and capacity to thrive. Local employers have begun to develop an increased sensitivity to the culture in making business decisions. The emphasis on creativity and innovation that defines the unique cultural atmosphere is ideal for progressive college students and innovators. The city fosters this atmosphere by promoting shows at Austin Bergstrom International Airport, funding the Austin City Limits series, and providing loans specifically for the music industry. In Texas there are roughly 7,000 music related firms and 100,000 working professionals in the music industry. These firms are categorized in a variety of ways, from education to industry services, to tour services. Austin has almost double the number of firms in each category, more than any other city in Texas.
A 2001 study that delved into the impact of live music on Austin, further researched the economic benefits of the live music scene. The value added impact of music related business in Austin in 2001 was $212,926,111, with 5,250 music related jobs. The value added impact of music related tourism in Austin in 2001 was $194, 783, 389 with 5,942 tourism related jobs. Festivals such as South by Southwest clearly illustrated this economic impact. Statistics from this study show that roughly 10% of all hotel stays in Austin are music related. During the SXSW festival, thousands of tourists and participants fly into the city. In the mid 1980s when the festival was created, it focused solely on music. However in 1993, film and interactive media portions were added, greatly expanding the number of participants and visitors. Each year more than 400 bands, 165 filmmakers, and 200 technology panelists come to Austin for the festival. These 15,000 festival participants greatly boost the impact of music related tourism.
Ultimately, the Austin music industry has a combined value added impact of $407,709,500 with 11,192 industry related jobs. This impact has helped Austin maintain a relatively stable work industry that is forever evolving creatively. The creative nature of the city excites business and city leaders because it attracts high quality employees, helps brand image, and increases public positive perception of companies. A 1997 study showed that roughly one-third of all businesses believed that when the public was aware of their support of the arts, they were more likely to purchase the company’s products.
In the future some changes may need to be made in order to ensure the viability of the live music culture. Live music venues are experiences rising costs, so reduce their costs by employing economic development incentives like those under the Smart Growth Initiative may help. Also, the large number of musicians creates an excess of supply, so any additional opportunities for musicians will help more individuals be able to make a living as musicians. By supporting local musicians and visiting live venues often one can continue to embrace the culture that makes Austin the Live Music Capital of the World. So here is your excuse to take every opportunity to go to a show. Use it.
Here is a little timeline to show you where I’ve been and where I hope to go. I’ve included pictures, videos, and links to Picasa for shows that have passed and links for the bands that will be playing soon. Expect weekly updates to the upcoming shows. I’ll see you out and about.
Austin’s allure is not found in the buildings or streets but rather in Leslie the city’s transvestite mascot, in the swarms of university students swelling with creativity and fresh ideas, in the festivals like Austin City Limits and South by Southwest that fill the streets and Zilker Park with eccentricities, in the Justin Timberlake sing-alongs at Alamo Drafthouse, in the film premieres at the Paramount theater, or in the deafening sounds of concerts pouring from Stubbs amphitheater.
Culture, an eccentric culture to be sure, is the reason students, visitors, and natives come to Austin and fall in love. A native of Austin, I thought I could live somewhere else, however after one year away, I missed Austin tremendously. The culture is entirely different from anywhere else I have ever been, making it irreplaceable. Music, film, festivals, and other cultural events exhibit the blend of southern hospitality and unabashed expression that make Austin the city it is.
Rarely when you go to a movie theater, are you greeted with semi pornographic and barely relevant video clips rather than traditional previews. However at Alamo Drafthouse you always receive a strange introduction while you decide what you’ll be dining on during your film. This venue is my favorite for film in Austin, and thus will often be featured in my blog. Alamo Drafthouse provides an atmosphere that makes going to see films a trip worthy of your ten dollars. The Drafthouse also features films that are hard or impossible to find elsewhere. Perhaps most importantly, the theater provides interactive events such as the Master Pancake film series, which mocks films with a live narrative. The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz location, is especially nice because of its 6th street location.
Austin’s music and film festivals have gained the city a great deal of notoriety. The upcoming Austin City Limits Festival is my personal favorite because it takes place in Zilker Park. The festival creates a never-ending cycle of excitement and anticipation. A soon as one festival is over, you are gripped with excitement for next year’s, partly because you didn’t want this year’s festival to end. Then starts the early bird ticket scramble, when discounted tickets are released in very limited batches to members of the mailing list. Then regular tickets are released in the form of three and one day passes, at a rate lower than after the lineup has been announced. When the lineup is announced there is a final scramble for the remaining tickets, followed by a sigh of relief that you have secured your spot at the festivities. Then summer arrives, and if the sheer wonder of excitement wasn’t enough, the festival is approaching quickly. At last the festival arrives and as anticipated, the weekend is remarkable. South by Southwest is a similar festival that is always overwhelming in the best possible way.
Finally and perhaps most importantly, is Austin’s music environment. A night spent waiting in the heat outside a venue, packing in front of a stage, possibly permanently altering your hearing and wearing out your voice, followed by late night pancakes at Kerby Lane is my absolute favorite way to entertain myself. The sheer number of choices is often paralyzing. I have spent many days in agony trying to decide between two shows that have been scheduled for the same night. Several times I’ve made the daring choice to dash between pieces of multiple shows, risking missing the part featured in the Austin Chronicle the following week. My favorite local musician is Bob Schneider, an artist who has come to dominate the Austin music scene; he holds regular shows every week at multiple venues. My favorite venues are Stubb’s (outdoors), the Parish, and Antone’s.
A night spent at home with a bag of gummy bears and reruns of Jersey Shore lacks a certain appeal. I feel a little embarrassed just acknowledging that I know what Jersey Shore is. Thankfully, I have decided to relay all of Austin’s most exciting cultural happenings to you via this blog. So toss out the candy, and for heaven’s sake, turn off Jersey Shore because I am here to slay your boredom, day and night.