Live Music Capital of the World? The Effects of Austin's Urban Branding on Its Local Musicians
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Since 1991, Austin has branded itself and been heralded as the “Live Music Capital of the World,” drawing people from all over to take part in a culture fueled by its creative residents. This thesis aims to answer the question of how Austin’s branding as the Live Music Capital of the World has affected the living and working conditions of its local musicians. While one might assume that musicians in Austin thrive given an enthusiastic music community, much of Austin’s growth, which can partially be credited to the city’s music-centric branding, has made it increasingly difficult for musicians to live in the city today. In an effort to answer this question, this thesis will evaluate Austin’s music scene and economy in four parts. The first section will discuss how Austin’s ecosystem during the last half of the 20th century fostered a successful music scene. The major factors reinforcing one another revolved around relatively inexpensive housing, geographic advantages, a large and generally affluent student population, and a growing artist community. The second section will examine how Austin’s local government used the music scene to attract more people and businesses to grow the city through branding Austin as “the Live Music Capital of the World.” The third section will assess the current music ecosystem, how it differs from historical trends, and how these changes are affecting musicians today. Finally, the concluding section will propose opportunities for improving the livelihood of musicians in order for Austin to maintain its musician population.