Music capital

Is Austin still cool? Why the live music capital could be losing its edge

Live music capital of the world. Mecca of all things “strange”. A city of hippies, slackers and honky tonks, Austin’s reputation was once synonymous with all things “cool”.


But after three years as the first city to live in the United States, Austin has fallen to 13th in the US News & World Report rankings this year.

For more than a hundred years, Austin residents have lamented that their city’s charm has disappeared, and some continue to worry that the city has traded in too many of its grittier concert halls for corporate towers. sparkling.

Has Austin’s composure fallen out of favor? Here’s a look at what could affect Austin’s reputation.

Migration and affordability – not so cool

There can always be too many good things out there, including dating profiles bragging about packing up and moving to Austin.

Austin has experienced a higher growth rate than any other US city from 2010 to 2020, with the metro attracting 171,465 newcomers in a decade.

Along with high-profile moves including billionaire Elon Musk, podcaster Joe Rogan and tech HQs, came a group of Californians eager to make a living in boomtown paradise.

An accessibility crisis ensued.

Young people, who often serve as the drumbeat of a city’s “coolness”, are quickly priced amid skyrocketing rents. While a Rent.com study ranked Austin as one of the best cities for young professionals in 2022, the city’s share among residents aged 20-24 was 7.5% of the population in 2019 , compared to 8.6% in 2010.

And the so-called “slackers” who helped make Austin famous are now struggling to survive in a city where the median home price is now $550,000, especially since many members of the class creative people in the city earn well below a living wage.

Live music and things to do, always cool

Austin was dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World” in 1991 when authorities discovered the city had more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the United States. And with 46.4 theaters per 100,000 people in 2018, that mantra has largely held true for years.

After the worst of the COVID pandemic, which was estimated to close up to 70% of live music venues in the Red River Cultural District alone, the city’s live music scene has been working hard to rebound. The city now has the fifth-most small music venues per capita in the country and ranks No. 4 among the best live music cities in the United States, according to a 2022 Clever.com study.

And many unique Austin attractions remain timeless. While paddle boarding on Town Lake has become overcrowded and has even made some swimmers itchy, outdoor attractions like Barton Springs Pool, Barton Creek Greenbelt, and other Hill Country swimming holes remain a popular pastime.

And while the chill of Sixth Street has become riddled with violence and security concerns, the city still has plenty of nightlife neighborhoods.

Instead of Austin’s Armadillo Den of yore, the new Austin offers entertainment for bachelorette parties on West Sixth Street, intimate concerts in East Austin and a haven for tech professionals on Rainey Booming street.

Keeping Austin Weird – Barely Hooked

Leslie Cochran, the high-heeled homeless man who personified the “Keep Austin Weird” movement, is long gone. In its place are controversial attempts to keep that spirit alive, including an Instagrammable sculpture of the mantra approved by the city’s Historic Landmarks Commission in February.

But pockets of this Austin signature still exist. It’s not uncommon to see Sam Greyhorse riding his horse at South Congress.

And while South Congress is losing longtime businesses and gaining luxury retailers in its new Music Lane development, other neighborhoods, like Barton Springs, still retain their carefree, old Austin feel.

New “strange” strongholds have also popped up, like Austin FC’s Q2 Stadium, where 20,500 football fans gather to chant Austin mantras, lift bouncy chickens and celebrate their community.

“Cooler” alternatives emerge

Still, Austin residents face the nation’s second most overvalued housing market, and many seek greener, cooler pastures.

Instead of transcontinental moves, some new moves are now moving to neighboring cities, according to research by Placer.ai. The study found that Austin’s “boomtown” status may already be overshadowed by new tech markets like Philadelphia, Phoenix and Raleigh, North Carolina.

And even within the state, Austin has fallen behind Dallas, Houston and San Antonio as the most searched city in Texas.

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