Mar 9, 2022 - News

Austin's music scene blasts out of the pandemic

A person puts up a welcome back SXSW sign
A sign welcomes South by Southwest back to Austin at Speakeasy last week. Photo: Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman/USA TODAY NETWORK

It's been a long, hard couple of years in the Live Music Capital of the World, but that may be finally changing.

Driving the news: When it comes to thrashing, head-bobbing and body-gyrating — that is, listening to music in person — Austin beats out New Orleans and Nashville, per a new number-crunching report from online real estate company Clever.

  • Austin also ranks as the fourth best city for music overall.

Why it matters: Next week's South by Southwest marks a coming-out moment as Austin — and the U.S. — emerges from the pandemic.

What's changed: Since the last SXSW, streaming services saw at least a 25% jump in profits as people got their fill of music via Spotify instead of their local club.

Flashback: Austin has shelled out federal COVID hardship money to support the local music industry.

How they did it: Among other ways, Clever ranked the 50 most populous cities based on average concert ticket price, as well as:

  • The number of small music venues close to downtowns.
  • Total music festivals scheduled for 2022 within a 100-mile radius.
  • The number of working musicians per 100,000 citizens.
  • The average wage for working musicians.

By the numbers: Austin won top live music honors because it has about five concert venues per 100,000 residents — plus nine music festivals planned for 2022, almost twice as many as the average U.S. city.

Avoid Miami: With its pricey ticket average ($166 apiece, per Clever), it's allegedly the worst overall city for music-lovers.

By comparison: Average ticket prices in Austin ($111) are cheaper than 76% of the cities in Clever's study.

Yes, but: Musicians' hourly median wage in Austin is $27.45, trailing the national average of $31.92.

  • San Francisco led the top 15 cities with a $48.84 hourly median wage for musicians; in Raleigh it's only $17.86.

We're getting suspicious: The worst city for live music is Houston, followed by Dallas and Detroit, per Clever.

What's next: Getting folks back into bars and concert venues to cheer on local and touring acts.

What they're saying: "We are thrilled to be here in person today," says Brydan Summers, a manager at the Austin Center for Events. "We look forward to a safe and successful spring festival season."

  • Of note: Austin Live Music Capital of the World is trademarked by the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau, including for use on blanket throws, chopped nuts, socks, guitar picks and, of course, koozies.
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