Re: [Harp-L] Re: death of live music

I live near Austin, TX, a city that touts itself as "the Live Music 
Capital of the World" (yes, "the World"), and on any given night there 
will be hundreds of live acts playing at dozens of venues around town.  
Nearly everyone has live music, including our airport and even some 
bank lobbies.  The city draws musicians from all over the world both 
for big musical events like South by Southwest and the Austin City 
Limits Music Festival, and to join in the vibrant band scene.  

This has its advantages and disadvantages.  For the audience, it's 
great.  Leafing through the weekly entertainment circular, they can 
pick from hundreds of bands, duos and solo acts in dozens of genres, 
including some world-class acts, usually in very intimate venues.  The 
city and other entities sponsor free events that feature some top name 
acts.  Cover charges are low or non-existent, and many of the venues 
are concentrated into several entertainment hubs around the city.  

For musicians, it's a mixed bag.  Want to get paid to play?  Forget 
it.  Most club venues pay $100-200 a night or less.  Some "let" the 
bands play for the tip jar.  In some places, that's all they deserve.  
But if you're trying to put together a working band, and convince 
everyone to put in the time and effort to practice and gig, the 
monetary rewards just aren't there.  It's a little better playing for 
corporate events when you can get the gigs, but those are reserved for 
certain genres of music (being in a "standards" jazz band, we get some 
of these gigs).  

This state of live music isn't a recent thing in Austin.  Twenty years 
ago, a friend and working musician from the Washington, DC, area 
visited, just to get a look at what Austin was all about.  He was 
appalled at what musicians had to deal with in terms of venues and 
pay.  He was used to gigs that paid $1000-1500/night, which could 
support a four- or five-piece band.  

On the other hand, there are some outstanding musicians that are more 
accessible than you can imagine.  You never know who might show up 
somewhere on a given night, like the night I went to see Kim Wilson at 
Antones and Steven Still showed up.  I recently went to a backyard 
concert featuring Guy Forsyth, and he was gracious enough to let me sit 

Austin is unique in that it has a relatively young population, a lot of 
it from the five universities and countless trade and technical schools 
in the city.  It is also progressive enough that a substantial amount 
of support for the music scene comes from the city.  The community of 
musicians in Austin is better organized than most, and the profile of 
live music in the city is high.  

The bottom line is that Austin is a great place to hear and play live 
music.  Just don't try to make a living at it.  


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