Early Music Census Results Show Changing Landscape for Austin Creatives

Wednesday, October 5, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

Early results from a recent census of Austin’s music community show some improvements in the state of local creatives, though there are still areas of concern for music stakeholders.

At Monday’s Music Commission meeting, a presentation from Sound Music Cities founder Don Pitts offered insight into some notable details of the full dataset slated for release in early November.

Among the results of the two-month survey with 85 questions that drew more than 2,200 responses: only 64% of respondents feel confident they will stay in Austin for the next three years; only 35% of creatives currently broadcast more than three shows per month; and 20% of venue operators and concert presenters rate property taxes as their biggest business challenge.

Pitts, who consults with cities across the country on music policy and sound issues, was heavily involved in the city’s 2015 music census that was conducted when he was head of the music and entertainment division. . This study was the first comprehensive analysis of the economic and cultural challenges faced by musicians as the cost of living in the city has increased.

The complete results of the new census will be presented at the end of October to the community organizations that contributed to its realization. A series of infographics are planned for public release in November to help disseminate the results more easily via social media.

The commission adopted two resolutions relating to the census. One asked the city to present the full data collected from the multiple-choice questions through the city’s digital data portals. The other resolution asked staff to also present the thousands of text responses electronically to the public after Pitts and his team redacted the responses to protect respondent anonymity.

“I personally believe that this type of access to this information will allow us, organizations and other entities to use it freely and use the data to make decisions,” Commissioner Nagavalli Medicharla said. .

Commissioner Oren Rosenthal expressed similar sentiments, saying the data and feedback could serve as the basis for further analysis and research by colleges and universities or other organizations interested in the state of the creative class of the town. Noting a data point suggesting that just under 40% of respondents said they struggled to pay their rent or mortgage each month, Rosenthal asked Pitts to do a geographic analysis of respondents in the five-county area to see how many Austin musicians have cost-of-living issues.

“I encourage you to take a look at the correlation between the 38% who are struggling to pay their mortgage with those who have already left and those who are unsure about staying in Austin for the next three years,” he said. -he declares. “I’m surprised to see it so low and if we’re going to make the case that musicians need help with housing, such a low number would make it harder, which is why I want to dig deeper.”

The census was conducted free of charge by Sound Music Cities with assistance from local nonprofits and other organizations, as well as music business students at Austin Community College.

Pitts and his colleagues are working to create a process that can provide a worthwhile action plan for cities interested in music savings for less than $10,000 in total.

“Our goal is to make this more affordable, so cities can measure these things. The worst things we see in this work are cities will spend $50,000 to $70,000 on a survey, get the results and a 150 page report and that’s it,” he said. “It’s more about having an action plan, and the last three or four years have taught us that the world is changing rapidly for creatives. More frequent measurements every two or three years allow you to focus on the data sets you want. »

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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