Austin, TX Cityscapes

How Austin, Texas Became Known As A Great Music City

Austin, Texas has always had great musicians and music. But in order for a musician to succeed in the music business, he / she was more often than not likely forced to move to Nashville, New York or Los Angeles.

But that was to change in the 1980’s. And I am proud to say that I had a hand in making the change. I came to Austin in 1972 when it was a small sleepy town. Austin resides in Travis County and all of Travis County only had about 250,000 persons at the time. I had moved to Austin from San Francisco and before that I had lived in Los Angeles and Boston. I was used to sophisticated, multi-cultural urban areas. Austin, to me, was a cow town in 1972.

There was not a lot to do compared to the previous cities that I had lived in. There were a lot of parties, And there was a lot of music – really incredible, rich, down home Austin and Texas music. That is something almost everyone did. And that is what I began to do also. I began to go to a lot of parties and out to hear a lot of music. I had previously lived in Los Angeles and SanFrancisco. Both cities had great music scenes and I was there during heydays. But I was never that much of a music fan. I did not go out a lot to hear music. The only reason that I began to go out to hear music in Austin was because there was not a lot to do but go out to hear music.

I settled down and matured in Austin. I began to further my education at The University of Texas receiving a B.A. in Psychology and a M.S. in Urban Planning. I had a difficult time getting into the program. I never really fit in and did not know how I was going to ever do a thesis. I knew that in order to complete a thesis, it would have to be on something I really loved. And by this time, I was really in love with The Austin Music Scene. When it came time to do my thesis, my professors allowed me to do it on the Austin, Texas music scene, something that I dearly loved and supported.

I knew the potential of the music scene. I had the contacts to bring people together. I was part of both lifestyles, the traditional lifestyle and the counter-culture lifestyle.

My thesis was titled “Impact of the Music Entertainment Industry on Austin, Texas”, published in 1983. It was all original work. I researched the contributions that live music gave to the community and made recommendations for further support. My thesis was directed towards the local government, the business community and the Chamber of Commerce.

The music community rallied around my thesis and brought it to the Chamber of Commerce asking for more respect, support and encouragement. The chamber listened. A group was formed at the chamber calling itself Austin Music Advisory Committee to The Chamber of Commerce or AMAC for short. AMAC and the chamber began to work together to develop the music scene / industry. Hearings were held with the community which led to a city wide symposium and a master plan of sorts.

AMAC would transition into another group which called itself Austin Music Industry Council (AMIC). Consultants were brought in to work with others in the group laying plans for the success of the local music scene. Out of this group would come the very first SXSW in 1986. Last year SXSW celebrated its 25th anniversary. Other members of these groups were paid to publicize the music scene as well as develop the industry.

It has been over 30 years since I did my thesis and AMAC was born. Austin, Texas is now on the map and a household name. The music scene is known all over the world and the music scene has given rise to a strong and still growing film industry. No longer do creative persons in Austin need to leave town to make it. They can now stay and succeed in Austin. The tables have turned. Musicians and other creative persons are coming to Austin to make it.

Other cities, all over the world, have borrowed from my ideas and those persons who put my ideas into reality. I feel that my thesis was one of the great accomplishments of my life. I am glad that it has been used well by others.


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