It brands itself the “Live Music Capital of the World.” But Austin’s famous music scene is muted right now because of COVID-19. At least five well-known venues have closed for good, with many others struggling to pay rent and hang on to employees.
Now, a new business survey suggests the situation could be dire for venues unless they are able to reopen by the fall.
Chad Swiatecki wrote about the fate of Austin music venues for the Austin Monitor. He told Texas Standard host David Brown on Friday that the survey found just over 60% of Austin music venues are at risk of going out of business permanently if they are forced to remain closed for as little as four months. One respondent estimated the loss could be 90%. The survey, conducted by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs, and commissioned by the Austin Chamber of Commerce, was conducted in June.
“Halloween is the dire mile marker for whether many of our music venues will close and go away for good,” Swiatecki said.
Venue owners are relying on personal savings, along with federal loans made available when the pandemic struck.
“I’m hearing that that is kind of running out, or will be gone entirely by the time we hit September,” he said.
The city of Austin has opened applications for a small business grant program that’s funded by the federal CARES Act. But it only provides businesses with around $40,000. Swiatecki said many music venues spend that much in overhead expenses each month.
Their recovery will also be complicated by the high cost of property and rents in downtown Austin, where many music venues are located.
“It could be kind of a meteor hitting the Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs kind of event,” he said. “When venues start to reopen, and I think they will, I don’t know how possible that will be in the downtown core.”