How Austin came to be known as the Live Music Capital of the World

Austin, Texas has always been rich with great musicians and great music. But in order to “make it”, a musician was forced to leave Austin and head to Nashville, New York or Los Angeles. A musician could not make it in Austin. 

That would begin to change when a graduate student in Urban Planning at The University of Texas decided to do and was allowed to do a masters thesis on the music scene. Titled “Impact of The Music Entertainment Industry on Austin, Texas”, the thesis was published in the summer of 1983. The thesis analyzed the contributions of the music industry and music scene to the City of Austin and made recommendations for future growth. It was directed towards the Chamber of Commerce and business community.

The musicians, along with others in the industry, rallied around this thesis. They went to the Chamber, thesis in hand asking for more support. And the Chamber of Commerce listened and agreed.  A group was formed at The Chamber calling itself Austin Music Advisory Committee (AMAC) to the Chamber of Commerce .  

In this original group was the author of the thesis, musicians, and persons who worked in the music industry along with members of the Chamber of Commerce. Together, they sat down to develop plans as to how to best support the Austin Music Scene. Hearings were held with various members of the music scene and industry which led to a city wide seminar and a master plan of sorts on how to best develop and support Austin music.

Among the things that this group did was to invite the founders of the New Music Seminar in New York to visit Austin. These men were interested in considering a similar event in Austin. They visited Austin in 1984 but nothing more came from their visit. However, the seeds were planted and local persons held the very first SXSW in 1986.

From this group also came a publicity campaign to promote Austin music to the world hoping to bring in tourists and possibly even new residents. During this campaign a slogan was developed that went “Austin, you make it live”. Bumper stickers and other items were printed with “Austin, you make it live”.

And from this slogan, “Austin, you make it live” would eventually come another slogan proclaiming Austin, Texas as the live music capital of the world.  There was some controversy around Austin declaring Austin as the live music capital of the world. There was no evidence that Austin was the live music capital of the world. There were other cities around the United States and the world that might feel they deserved the title. But the title was adopted and stuck. Some persons loved it and others lived with it.

And the rest, as they say, is history. Austin, Texas is now on the music map as one of the great music cities of the world. Times have changed. Once, musicians had to leave Austin to make it: now, musicians come to Austin to make it.