Updated: Mar 4
Is the Local Scene in the Live Music Capital of the World, Struggling?
The capital city of Texas, hosts annual music festivals like the South by Southwest festival (SXSW) and the Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL), contributing nearly $349 million into the Austin-area economy as of 2017 (from SXSW, alone). Reports also indicate, from 2015 to 2017, there were nearly 3,000 more music-related jobs added to the state, now up to around 95,000. A study conducted by Economic Research Consultant firm TXP, Inc., reveals the amount of money Austin’s music industry pumped into the local economy increased from $1.6 billion annually to $1.8 billion from 2010 to 2014.
But, at the bottom of it what’s really fueling this billion dollar industry? It’s the local music scene in the city that makes up to these numbers. Austin Music People report indicates, from 2010 to 2014, the number of jobs created because of Austin's music-related tourism industry rose by 3,780, a 37 percent increase. Whereas, jobs within the non-tourism, year-round music scene dropped by 1,205, a decline of 15 percent, in the same time period. Therefore, it would not be too early to say that the local music scene in Austin might be at the crossroads – extinction or survival? Would there be a live music scene and a live music capital without musicians? And yet, artists and all music creators being fairly paid remains a challenge in most parts of the world, including Austin, Texas.
In a recent interview with Half Step Rock, Austin based folk-rock band ‘The Cover Letter’ talked about their latest single release 'Lies' and the music scene in their hometown. “Right now, everyone in the band plays for free. By that I mean, we put all our proceeds back into the band. It takes a special level of commitment to practice 4 times a week and play 2 shows without receiving a dime, but that is what makes our members so special. After 5 years, we are able to pay for most band-expenses, but everyone still has a job outside of music, for now. If given the opportunity, we would want to play music and perform full-time. While we don’t really believe in ‘the big break’ too much, it would be nice to just be able to focus on music. We are ready, working hard, and we aren’t stopping anytime soon,” shared Jacob Shipman, spokesperson for the band.
He also added, locally, it’s hard out there, but not impossible. Thankfully, we live in a hotbed of music, being from Austin, TX. We see bands come and go, but we also see a lot of bands make it. There’s so much accessibility now, that it’s all a matter of trying to figure out how to stand out amongst all the noise but also make money doing it. Lots of talented musicians can’t make a living these days, but the industry is always in flux and you have to be able to roll with the punches. Globally, the music industry is a beast, and I’m sure musicians from elsewhere run into the same snags as we do.
The band released their sophomore EP, Cities Made of Sand, in 2017 and shared details about their latest single in an exclusive interview with Half Step Rock. “We have been putting in a lot of work over the last year and really shaping our sound into something we feel is a unique expression of ourselves. Our style has become a bit more rock and a little more experimental (for folk-rock) without losing touch with our Americana roots. Our new single, Lies, is a culmination of everything we have been through up to this point; all of the hardships and the struggle with self-confidence, especially knowing if you’re making the right choices in the end. A lyric from the song reads, ‘It’s the little things we do to make ourselves feel all right. Just lie to ourselves and make ourselves feel all right.’ In the end, we absolutely love what we do, but sometimes we must tell ourselves a little lie to keep going, something most people can relate to,” shared Jacob. Band’s first full length album is expected to hit the shelves by beginning of next year.
Their live performances have garnered them slots at the SXSW music festival, 2015’s Music Connection Magazine's Hot 100 Unsigned Artists and inclusion in Austin Chronicle’s top 10 best new bands of Austin and yet, a full-time well paid career in music seems to be a distant reality for the band. While bands like The Cover Letter are making waves in the local scene, close geographies like Latin America are establishing positive growth stories as the region that saw the largest revenue growth in recorded music with 17.7% growth in revenue, in the world. This disparity in the changing music industry landscape across the world is hopeful, yet an alarming sign for labels, artists, governments and consumers in terms of the future of the industry.
Can Bangalore, one of India’s leading live performance destinations, take a cue from world’s live music capital and offer a robust ecosystem with better government policies for musicians before live music scene in the city reaches a point of extinction?
Band members - Jarrod Nall (bass) Jacob Shipman (guitar/vocals), Evan Runyon (lead guitar), Angie Vanegas (vocals), Fletcher Inzer (keyboards) and Patrick Barrow (drums).
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