Austin Music Venues Face Off Against Local Gentrification

By Savannah Olson
Music Journalist

Since the 1990s, Austin has been given the title of “Live Music Capitol of the World”. With its abundance of music festivals, live shows, and artists that come to live here, anyone who has been to Austin can agree with that claim. But in recent years, Austin has started to grow away from “Keep Austin Weird” and instead is heading to become a major American city for technology and twenty-something living. The consequences of the new urban development can be deeply seen throughout the city, especially in Austin’s music scene.

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SXSW keeps Austin’s streets filled during festival season. Photo by Cain Hernandez.

Just earlier this month, Strange Brew, a coffee shop and music venue in South Austin, shut its doors without notice to customers and employees. Like many venues in recent years, Strange Brew felt the cost of rising rent in one of the key developing areas of Austin. In just the past year, music venues like Badlands, The Saxon Pub and Austin Music Hall have seen their doors closed, all for the same reason: an unparalleled increase in rent that small music venues are unable to keep up with. With some of Austin’s most prime real estate being controlled by many music venues throughout the downtown area, there’s not much that local venues can do but stand strong and fight as much as they can against the new wave of gentrification.

Fortunately, there has been a glimmer of hope in the horizon. Last September, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced a mini-bond program that is intended to raise $10 million to purchase and preserve iconic music venues across the city. According to the Austin-American Statesman, the bond will allow for “local residents to jump in and save the music venues they love,” by partnering with an owner or buying a venue completely. This bond could be a step in the right direction, but the resources of the project have yet to be used, even as venues like Strange Brew continue to turn off the lights and close down for good.

Hopefully, the program Mayor Steve Adler proposed occurs soon and many gems of Austin’s music scene will remain protected. But we must remind ourselves of the loss if that plan doesn’t happen. The culture that Austin has cultivated over the decades will be lost, and not just for the music scene, but across the lively art community that Austin has built and influenced our very own San Marcos with.

Photo by Lucero Trevino.

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