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Music Money Matters

By Jordan Smith, Fri., May 24, 2002

Today (Thursday) the City Council is scheduled to vote on a resolution, sponsored by Will Wynn and Daryl Slusher, designed to help owners of live music venues downtown reduce their energy costs. Under the resolution, the city -- with direction from City Manager Toby Futrell, and through Austin Energy -- would conduct a handful of "sample energy audits" on clubs. "Basically we're looking for a way that we might be able to help boost the bottom line of some of the music venues," said Wynn aid Mark Nathan. "This resolution is really a first step toward the possibility, as yet to be considered by the council, that the city and Austin Energy could assist in some way with utility costs for live music venues. As you can imagine, it costs a frickin' fortune to keep a space like Antone's, for example, air-conditioned all the time."

The resolution is the first of several proposals generated by the Music Task Force -- a Wynn brainchild that includes city staff, venue owners, musicians, and other stakeholders -- to boost the local music economy. Wynn proposed the task force after last fall's release of "The Role of Music in the Austin Economy," a study reporting that the Austin music biz alone generates more than $616 million for the local economy. The study also pointed to burdens faced by the music community that, if not addressed, would hinder its growth -- including rising financial pressures on live music venue operators, and the excess "supply" of musicians versus current "demand." The task force finished up six months of meetings in April, and has stepped up to offer some possible solutions to problems highlighted in the economic study.

Wendy Morgan, director of music marketing for the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau and city liaison on the task force, calls the energy audit resolution "a first step and a nice step." Tourism is a $3.3 billion industry in Austin, she adds, "and music is how we promote this city. It is a major role-player in our local economy." Among other task force ideas for the council to consider in the future: a proposal to direct the master developers of the old Robert Mueller airport to include the music industry as part of its site development plans (likely in the form of a sound studio as part of film production facilities), and another addressing affordable housing and health services for musicians.

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