AUSTIN (KXAN) — When you think of Austin, most people can’t help but think of its live music scene.

Across Texas, the music industry has generated nearly $11 billion in economic activity in 2022, a recent state report shows. Austin music tourism generates about $1.8 billion per year, according to the Austin Music Movement nonprofit.

In a South by Southwest panel Tuesday called “The Economic Impact of Live Entertainment,” live music experts talked about how entertainment multiplies dollars spent locally and how the impact goes beyond the venues and artists themselves.

Arts and entertainment work like an economic multiplier, according to Tamara Keshecki, the owner of nonprofit consulting firm AINOK Consulting. For example, if a person sees a performance or show, income around the venue can increase, as the person buys food or parking or a hotel room.

In 2021, the Austin City Limits Music Festival funneled about $369.1 million into the city, according to organizers. The event has brought in $2.6 billion to Austin since 2006 when data tracking began. 

In 2022, the SXSW festival, which includes a music festival, had a $280.7 million impact in Austin. Pre-pandemic years brought more money to the city including $355.9 million in 2019.

Howie Kaplan, the nighttime economy director for the city of New Orleans, said the economic value goes beyond the artists. It includes the loaders, technicians, licensing people and legal support.

Development meets music

Austin, known as the Live Music Capitol of the World, has dozens of cranes spotted throughout downtown Austin, one panelist noted. The group discussed how new developments often center around live music.

“I think you probably see it here in Austin — you see it a lot in Nashville — where the start of a lot of like sort of big development projects happen around where there’s the core of arts and culture,” Tobi Parks, the vice president of the National Independent Venue Foundation, said.

However, in the same vein, developments have led to the removal of local venues around the country. Parks said this shows the need for municipalities to pay attention to what their communities are looking for and need.

In Austin, at least five venues closed permanently during the pandemic. Those include Threadgill’s original location, Shady Grove and Barracuda, according to previous KXAN reporting.

“Suddenly, your local community music venue gets bulldozed for an apartment complex,” Parks said.

Kaplan said this is shortsighted, as developers don’t recognize the value and economic impact of venues.

“When you start losing venues that have been around for generations…each community needs to be thinking about that,” Kaplan said.


A campaign called #SaveOurStages began during the pandemic to support independent venues. It also brought these smaller venues together, Parks said, to help one another. 

“We said ‘You have to save us, like we are key to so much of what happens in our economy,'” Parks said. “And they did.”

The Save Our Stages Act, introduced by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minnesota), gave $16 billion to venues across the country. Money was used for mortgage or rent, utilities, employee payments and taxes.

It was considered the largest arts funding bill in the history of the U.S. Kaplan said the campaign also brought the different silos of live entertainment together between the local venues, the artists and governments.

“This was unprecedented collective action that happened and completely changed the game,” Keshecki said.

The campaign worked to emphasize the commonality of music and even connected legislators with their favorite musicians. For example, Kaplan said Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana and his favorite artist, Meat Loaf, met on Zoom and shared their common interests.

“There’s no political boundary with music,” Parks added.