March 6 was the day the music paused in Austin. That was when, just seven months ago, Austin mayor Steve Adler canceled the South by Southwest festival that draws hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world to the Texas Capital City. It was a significant, precautionary measure, as the coronavirus began to spread across the country.
But the decision also had consequences – especially for Austin’s music industry.
Now, a new podcast from our KUT/KUTX Studios, “Pause/Play,” dives deeper into the pandemic’s effect on the Live Music Capital of the World. It’s hosted by KUT host and producer, Miles Bloxson, and KUTX host and producer Elizabeth McQueen.
How the cancellation of South by Southwest had ripple effects in Austin, and beyond:
“A lot of artists depend on South by Southwest,” McQueen told Texas Standard. “If you’re releasing a new record, this is where you will let people know about it. A lot of people kind of come through and tour. It’s a great networking opportunity, and it’s also this, like behemoth, of a festival that I don’t think anyone really thought could get canceled. So not only did the closure of South by Southwest really financially devastate a lot of people, but it also signaled to like Austin and to the rest of the country that COVID-19 was serious.”
What are some artist doing during during the shutdown in place of live shows:
“A lot of musicians are turning to other ways to make money,” Bloxson told the Standard. “And some make up that financial loss: they’re streaming, they’re doing a lot of stuff on Instagram, they’re doing live concerts now, things that they never thought that they would kind of dive into because they can’t do that in-person performance that they’re so accustomed to. We even had a lot of musicians tell us that they’re selling more merchandise or they are, you know, setting up concerts as much as possible as they can online from their living room to their followers.”
One artist ‘Pause/Play’ features is Austin-based artist J Soulja. He released a new album, “From the Soul,” he produced while in quarantine.
How artists are feeling about the future of the music industry since the pandemic:
“I feel like we keep running into people that are more hopeful and they are into the creative process and they’re just taking it moment by moment,” Bloxson said. “They’re staying in the present moment and they’re developing music that inspires everybody to get through this moment that we’re all in together.”
“As dire as things are, you would think that people would really be despondent,” she said. “But I think the thing about musicians and creatives is that their job is to imagine other worlds and other ways of being. And a lot of people are taking this time to reflect on why they do what they do and and how they do it. And try to make the systems and the ways that they make money, making music, make more sense and kind of work for everybody.”
McQueen added: “So it’s really been inspiring, actually, to talk to people because so many people are reassessing so much. And I think that musicians and creatives really have a way of imagining a better future.”