Musicians say affordability, convenience make South Austin an ideal place to live

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The prevalence of music venues as well as recording and rehearsal studios in South Austin may be contributing to the trend of musicians choosing to live in the area, according to resident performers.

For some musicians, the region’s relative affordability as well as its ease of access to venues downtown on the east and south sides of the city also explains their choice to live in South Austin.

South Austin venues, such as Moontower Saloon and Radio Coffee and Beer, offer opportunities to listen to and play live music daily, helping keep the local music scene alive, local musicians said.

Brice Bowden, guitarist and vocalist for local band A Tiger Lily, said Austin is a great place to get one’s feet wet as a musician and work to gain notoriety on a larger scale.

Bowden said he moved to Austin in 2007 from Tyler, Texas, hoping to start a music career. He said he chose to live in South Austin because he feels a sense of community and acceptance. It’s also much cheaper compared to other parts of the city, he said, and provides easy access to downtown Austin and other cities along I-35, such as Buda and San Antonio.

“I think South Austin is more classic Austin, and [the music scene]got kind of pushed down this way as [the downtown became more built out],” Bowden said.

The logistics of performing in South Austin are also simpler compared to downtown, Bowden said. Venues provide parking and performance opportunities almost every day of the week, he said.

WHAT SOUTH AUSTIN OFFERS

At least eight professional music recording and rehearsal spaces exist in South Austin that provide convenience to the local musicians who live there, local business owners say.

Music Lab, which has two locations in South Austin, offers a one-stop shop for equipment rentals and rehearsal and recording space. Staff members said the facility is always booked and caters to various types of musicians, ranging from low-budget to professional touring bands.

Ross Glaze, retail and backline rental manager at Music Lab, said the uniqueness of the facility and its amenities is something unique to South Austin. The retail store is also open until 3 a.m., which provides convenience for musicians seeking last-minute equipment.

“They have everything at their fingertips here,” Glaze said. “We like to think of ourselves as a staple for bands who need service.”

Space, a recording and rehearsal studio in South Austin, creates a welcoming atmosphere for professional musicians as well as amateurs taking music lessons, owner Will Harrison said.

The facility features artwork hung on the walls and open spaces such as an outdoor patio. Artists can record, rehearse and mix tracks on-site.

Tim Gerron, recording studio manager at Space and owner of recording and production company Gerron Music, said the multiuse facility is also open to other aspiring artists looking for a place to hold movie auditions or art exhibitions.

“Austin is a very manageable town to be creative in, and this environment allows us to do all kinds of things,” Gerron said.

Billy Milano, founder and lead singer of Austin-based band Method Of Destruction, or MOD, tours with his band year-round but practices at Music Lab on St. Elmo Road.

Milano came to Austin from Hoboken, New Jersey, in 2004 to live in the “Live Music Capital of the World.” A musician since 1978, Milano was looking for a more intimate, laid-back local music scene compared to New York and Los Angeles.

“I like the pace of Austin,” Milano said. “There’s land and friendly neighbors and people here.”

A unique brand of venue

Moontower Saloon, a local bar and live music venue in South Austin, is a common place for local musicians to perform, its owners say.

Co-owner Josh Bumb said the “way South Austin” bar and venue aims to offer a comfortable atmosphere for bands to play and customers to relax.

“Moontower is a very unique animal,” Bumb said. “We are a venue that does not charge crazy Austin cover prices and provides low-key music four days a week.”

At the time of its opening in 2012, Bumb believes Moontower, located near the end of Manchaca Road, met the needs of nearby residents and musicians looking for a convenient place to hang out and perform.

“We just felt like there was something missing out here,” Bumb said. “We had no idea it was going to be this successful, but I think it remains that way today because of our customer base. I think our customers and the local bands appreciate a place they can go and relax and play without the craziness of downtown Austin.”

Keeping the music scene alive

Milano believes the Austin music scene is growing but still struggles. He said the city and some local businesses make it cost-prohibitive for local bands and musicians to be successful. Venues do not always offer fair pay, he said, and some locations make it difficult to book gigs. But supporting local musicians is what keeps the music scene alive, he said.

“The music community is the guiding force of the changing industry, and musicians have to be willing to stand together to improve the local music scene in Austin,” Milano said.

Bowden echoed a similar sentiment, adding that musicians have a responsibility to keep the scene alive as well.

“People are hungry for different kinds of art out there,” Bowden said. “You have to be willing to keep people interested in what you are doing, and you have to keep writing new music.”

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