It’s a fact: Austin is getting more expensive. Especially for renters, the cost of living here is just going up and up. When the economics of urban living change, the social composition can change as well. Unfortunately for Austin, many musicians are being priced out of the Austin market.
According to NPR, “Austin is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Young people are moving there in search of its plentiful sunshine, freewheeling lifestyle, hi-tech jobs and vibrant music scene. However, more and more musicians find they cannot afford to live in the self-styled “Live Music Capital of the World.”
In Austin, music seems to bubble up like an artesian spring. Yet many musicians cannot make a reasonable living wage in this town, which is why they need cheap rent. Hence the moment of silence last week when the Wilson Street Cottages were boarded shut.
“Everyone’s moved out of town, out of state, across town. Yeah, this is the last place. South Austin just got uncool,” says Jacob Rocha as he loads his belongings into a pickup truck.
Rocha plays in a grindcore punk-rock band called F’n A and was a resident of the colony. The Wilson Street Cottages were a rambling complex of shabby apartments in South Austin. Famous — and infamous — as a musician’s colony, the community treasured its frequent song swaps, potlucks and bacchanals.
Bobby Lane — one half of the duo Weedhawks — was loading his worldly possessions into a van and preparing to go back and live on the road with his musical partner, Ruby Jean. According to him, lots of great musicians have passed through these cottages.
“Ronnie Lane from The Faces lived at the first cottage up there; Will Sexton lived next-door; and talk Stevie Ray Vaughan lived in my cottage. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but just a lot of great musicians in the neighborhood and a really good creative energy here,” Lane said.
Despite the high cost of living, more than 170 new people move to Austin every day. Consequently, Austin has become the most expensive city in Texas to buy or rent a home in.
Michelle Ward is a sales associate at Barton Place, one of the trendy new condos springing up throughout Central Austin.
“Our amenities include things like a saltwater pool; there is a fitness center; also, there’s four rooftop terraces,” she recites, “and so price ranges for two-bedrooms in general range from the $350,000s to the $590,000s.”
So here’s the kill-the-golden-goose paradox: The music scene is one of the biggest reasons why people are flocking to Austin, and all those new people are crowding out the musicians who make the music.”