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Task force proposes creation of new Austin Music Office

Tuesday, October 14, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Recommendations from subcommittees of Austin’s Live Music Task Force – including the creation of a new City of Austin Music Office – were presented to the full task force at a meeting Monday night. The groups have been studying four key issues related to live music, which will be merged into a final document.


Creation of a Music Office will be at the top of the list when the subcommittees’ recommendations reported in November. The reports will be compiled and circulated to members in about two weeks, and reviewed at the group’s meeting next month. Task force members envision a city department tasked with coordinating several different programs to help local musicians deal with issues ranging from finding health care to accessing affordable housing and to help local club owners deal with the city’s development process.


“We looked at the survey responses about people’s needs for training, legal assistance, and an overall place where information can be collected,” said Dave Sullivan, a task force member who led one of the subcommittees. “So we recommended that the music business office would look at creating a centralized data spot where you could get information and get connected to legal services, booking services, all the infrastructure elements that are required.” Sullivan’s group also suggested that the city consider contracting with an outside entity for those services, such as the Austin Music Foundation, similar to the way the city handles contracts with social service providers.


“We firmly believe that the venues and musicians have not done a good job traditionally of getting together and being actively represented in the community,” said James Moody, who served on the subcommittee dealing with affordability and financing issues for venues. “And the centralized music office would be a great opportunity to do that, to give venues and musicians a voice,”


That subcommittee also suggested several different ways to define which businesses qualify as live music venues, since some of the task forces’ eventually recommendations will likely include waivers on city fees, a loan program, and other financial incentives for live music venues in certain areas. “We want owners to be very clear on what it means to be a good live music venue and what it means to be a bad live music venue, so we can all work together to develop a culture that supports co-existence and the Austin that we want, which is music and neighborhoods working together in harmony,” he said.


One of the key recommendations of Moody’s subcommittee was to seek ways to reduce the sales and property tax burden for live music venues. “This definitely requires a study,” he said. “Additional resources would be needed. But when you’re looking at making live music venues more affordable, this is at the top of the page.”


The task force has also been studying ways to define entertainment districts within the city, with the goal of making it easier for live music venues to exist within those specific areas. The group will meet again on Nov. 10 to go over the wording final recommendations to the City Council and discuss which items need further definition or study by the proposed Music Office.


“We’re talking like the Music Office exists and has been approved, but that’s probably the kind of thing the city doesn’t just turn around in a month or two,” warned task force member Harold McMillan. He suggested interim recommendations for those “hot button” issues that needed more immediate attention.

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