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Music Commission embraces Adler’s plan to save Austin arts

Tuesday, March 8, 2016 by Eva Ruth Moravec

Through a series of town hall meetings citywide, the Music Commission has vowed to educate Austinites and solicit public input on Mayor Steve Adler’s plan to better support art in Austin.

Each of the 10 meetings will focus on a different genre of music that the commission feels is underrepresented, said Commission Chair Gavin Garcia at the commission’s meeting Monday night. The series will take place over the next couple of months – as if the city’s music industry weren’t already busy enough.

“This opportunity is insane,” Garcia said, “for the art industry to be supported by a government and a mayor. We’re going to be a lot more angled towards advocacy than maybe it’s been before.”

Garcia said the local music industry is “balkanized” – Adler himself was speaking at the Austin Music Industry Awards during the meeting – and added that the commission will provide central leadership in implementing Adler’s “Austin Music & Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution.”

The document gives City Manager Marc Ott 90 days to craft a plan to address a swath of issues affecting the creative sector, including affordability, venue preservation and venue permitting processes. Also involved is creation of a safety net for local musicians and artists.

Adam Weedman told the commission that after four months of owning the live music venue Tellers, the logistics have beaten down his passion for music.

“There’s still a lot of good stuff,” he said, “but then I have to deal with the hassles of the city. It’s just difficult every day to keep forking out money.”

Musician Dave Madden, who said he recently played a show at Tellers, urged the commission to create a peer mentoring system that would ensure that the quality of Austin music continues to grow.

“I’ve tried to live and breathe this Austin music scene,” said Madden, an 11-year Austinite. “We don’t want Austin’s art to suck.”

City Council signed the so-called omnibus resolution on March 3, days after Austin Music People released its latest economic impact study. The study found that the music industry’s impact rose by $200 million – from $1.6 billion to $1.8 billion – over four years, mostly due to the festival economy.

The impact of local music over the same time declined more than 15 percent, the study found, from $856 million in 2010 to $726 million in 2014 – representing a loss of more than 1,200 local music industry jobs.

“Austin won’t be the Live Music Capital of the World for much longer if we keep losing musicians and music venues, and the struggles that the local music industry is facing are also being faced by the entire creative ecosystem,” Adler said in a news release.

Frank Rodriguez, representing Adler, told the commission that he, the city’s music division and Ott’s office will work very closely to craft the logistics of implementing Adler’s resolution by the end of March. The town hall meetings will take place in April, and the plan will go to the Economic Opportunity Committee on May 9. In June, the plan should reach Council.

“Our job is usually to say ‘what,’ and (Ott’s) job is to say ‘how.’ But this is a really high priority for the mayor, so we’re going to put the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ in the same room together,” Rodriguez said.

He said that each day, he and others on city staff hear stories “from a creative that lost their studio space, lost their living space or can’t afford to live here.” Music was always a part of Adler’s campaign and policy wish list, Rodriguez said.

Commissioner Graham Reynolds said the plan will by no means be “the end of saving music in Austin or making performing arts and the ecosystem healthy for the future – this is stage 1.”

Photo by Bryan C. ParkerOwn work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24520142

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