AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a push for businesses to show more support for Austin’s music industry, the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians said it now has a key investment to help keep its services going as musicians have to wait longer in getting funds from the city.

Earlier this month, Austin city staff said staffing shortages are partly behind the delay in getting $3 million to artists and promoters as part of the Live Music Fund.

“There’s so much money flowing around all over the place, and it seems like there’s just not enough of it going to the artistic sector that is music in this city,” said local artist Scott Strickland.

HAAM said its new partnership with PNC Bank will help it address the urgent health care needs of musicians, while also helping to hire musicians for more gigs.

”Hopefully, we can have them play at places like PNC Plaza at ACL Live and at Waterloo Greenway. And at the [Austin] Chamber events where we’re the live music sponsor, and all the other fun things we have going on here in Austin,” said PNC Austin regional president Dillan Knudson.

PNC will also provide financial education for HAAM musicians, Knudson said.

“Both on a personal level, helping folks with things like, you know, first-time home ownership and credit scores to, you know, helping with small business decisions … Ultimately, these folks are all small business owners in their own right,” he said.

HAAM said the help is critical. In a recent survey of its members, the nonprofit said it found:

  • $10,000 in lost income in 2021 for the average HAAM member
  • 41% of members struggled to pay rent or mortgage
  • 900 members received unemployment benefits
  • 65% were behind on bills or accrued credit card debt
  • 56% of members reported either not having enough to get by or barely enough to get by
  • 34% were worried about-or faced- food insecurity

“If we don’t do something, pretty soon, we’re not going to have a culture of music in the city,” said Strickland.

“If we don’t do something, pretty soon, we’re not going to have a culture of music in the city,” said Strickland, who started his music career in Austin nearly 10 years ago.

He said he and others are also hitting a bottleneck as they all rush to secure shows.

“Booking for an artist like me used to take a couple of months … and now it’s like, ‘No, we’re three months out. We’re four months out now, because everyone’s looking to get on the road, because no one’s been working for basically two years,” said Strickland.

That’s even harder, he said, as venues choose bands with more recognition or with big agencies over smaller artists, like himself.

“You can’t just make your money in downtown Austin anymore … which is where it used to be,” he said. “There are musicians that live here that have to go all the way to Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, just to make their money to make ends meet to keep that rent paid.”

The partnership will last for a year, although Knudson hopes to keep it going after that.

HAAM CEO Paul Scott hopes more businesses follow suit — not just for his own music nonprofit, but for others in Austin, too.

“Many of our corporations and businesses sell Austin as the live music capital of the world,” he said. “We’re asking our musicians to shoulder this kind of moniker live music capital of the world, we also need to be creative in helping them stay here so we can keep that moniker.” 

“Music built this city,” said Strickland. “For musicians to be in this kind of diaspora is — it’s unconscionable. It really is.”

HAAM said it’s working on partnerships with other businesses but wouldn’t reveal those just yet. HAAM is also holding a corporate Battle of the Bands next month, a fundraiser it hopes businesses get behind.

More resources and policies to help on the horizon

Austin groups also announced another effort on Tuesday to help musicians: The Greater Austin Area Music Census.

A local company called Sound Music Cities will lead the “health check” on Austin’s music industry, set to launch next month.

The hope is the new data will shed light on the industry’s biggest challenges and how to address them.

It’ll be the first music census in nearly 10 years and will include many partners, including Austin’s Economic Development Corporation, HAAM and KXAN News.

“The music census is critically important to tell the story of our musicians, what’s happening in the music scene scene … who our musicians are, how they are doing, what they are needing,” Scott explained.

He and Strickland hope musicians of color and groups that represent them, like the Black Austin Musicians’ Collective, are included in the process.

“In terms of the the census itself, is extremely important. But there, if it’s not done the right way, I think they’re going to miss the boat,” Strickland said.

“We need to look at this through a lens of racial equity, in terms of what music means for our community,” Scott added.

A press release for the census indicated that more details will be announced soon.