Music Commission wants to add $15 million to November bond election to create a music hub

At their monthly meeting on Monday, members of the Austin Music Commission, a citizen-led group that advises City Council, passed a recommendation asking for $15 million for the creation of a music “hub” in the upcoming November bond election.

A guitar in the Gibson showroom captures Austin’s spirit as the Live Music Capital of the World. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

The proposal from the Music Commission comes a month after the Austin Arts Commission proposed adding $25 million to the bond election to purchase and adapt a space that could be used by multiple artists and arts organizations, including music groups.  That money is on top of $67.5 million recommended  by the Bond Election Advisory Task Force to upgrade existing facilities including the Mexican American Cultural Center, the George Washington Carver Museum and the Dougherty Arts Center.

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The money the Music Commission is asking for would be used for acquisition and development of a property that could contain rehearsal rooms, performance space, office space for music businesses and community meeting rooms. The idea of creating music business “cluster developments” was one of the recommendations that emerged from the 2015 Austin Music Census, a city-wide industry survey that found Austin at a tipping point as the Live Music Capital of the World.

“We have a whole bunch of cultural centers in town. We don’t have a music cultural center,” commission member and musician Graham Reynolds said at the meeting.

“We don’t have a focal point. There is no center for the music industry and it’s created challenges,” commission chair Gavin Garcia said.  Other cities have worked to create spaces to engage their industries and stimulate development, he said, citing Nashville’s music tech accelerator created in partnership with the Country Music Association and Chicago’s Fort Know Studios complex as examples.

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Arts Commission chair Maria Luisa Flores attended the Music Commission meeting. She said her commission’s proposal was designed to address the “space crisis” that has left many local arts organizations without homes after unsustainable rent hikes.

Reynolds characterized the two proposals as not competing, but parallel requests.

“It might be a good idea to join forces and work together to come up with an amount … to include and dedicate some space for recording… (within) a multi-use facility,” Flores said.

The two groups might have different needs, Reynolds noted. “The arts hub may not need to be downtown. Theater companies or dance companies need a much bigger space to rehearse in than a band does.  I can imagine reasons why it’s two buildings, but it’s a united bond request,” he said.

“Arts Commission led and we are part of, in my opinion, the Arts Commission and they are part of us, in the creative sector,” Garcia said.

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The commission included language saying they want to “explore combining this request with the request put forth by the Arts Commission to benefit Austin’s creative sector” in their draft proposal.

The Bond Election Advisory Task Force current recommendations total $851 million, which would amount to a two-cent increase to the tax rate.

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