The Texas House passed HB 2806, sponsored by state Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, on April 24. It is now being considered by the Texas Senate, where it was referred to the Business & Commerce Committee.
The goal of the rebate program is to help offset the increasing operating costs facing the state’s music venues, Morrison said at a March 26 meeting of the House’s Culture, Recreation & Tourism Committee.
“Music has been a major contributor to the culture of our state, especially live music in venues large and small, rural and urban,” she said. “Their disappearance is not only a loss to our Texas culture and heritage, but it is also a great economic loss as well.”
Music business and music education account for nearly 97,000 jobs and $4.1 billion in annual earnings in Texas as well as more than $9.6 billion in annual economic activity, according to a report published earlier this year by the Texas Music Office.
Despite the value of the creative sector, many music venues are struggling to stay open.
One hundred twenty-two of 230, or 53%, surveyed art and music venues do not expect to renew their current leases, according to a 2016 report by the local arts advocacy group Austin Creative Alliance. The survey concluded the demands of the real estate market are moving faster than the creative community’s ability to secure the capital and financing needed to stay in place.
The city of Austin has invested in a number of programs intended to support venues, including a pilot program that led to five music venues along the Red River Cultural District to extend their outdoor live music curfews and the Music and Creative Ecosystem Omnibus Resolution passed in 2016.
Tomar Williams, a soul musician who moved to Austin in the mid-1980s, testified in support of the bill March 26.
Along with his siblings, Williams performed on the Chitlin’ Circuit, a network of performance venues mostly in the South that were safe for African American musicians during the Jim Crow era.
“When we came to Austin, it was like a dream come true,” Williams said, adding that the city provided an opportunity for musicians to make a living pursuing their passion.
Williams has performed in venues such as Antone’s and The Continental Club as well as many others that have since closed.
“There are some bands, or some kids, who are coming up like we did that might not get a chance ... to show their talents or showcase their skills or hone their skills if the venues are no longer here,” he said.
If the bill is passed in the Senate, the Texas Music Office could process rebate applications from eligible venues and promoters starting in September 2020.