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The real story of how Austin became known as the live music capital of the world

(Photo by Jim Bennett/FilmMagic)
(Photo by Jim Bennett/FilmMagic)

HOUSTON – Not only is Austin the capital of Texas, but is also dubbed the live music capital of the world.

How exactly did this happen? In Austin, it seems almost any space can be filled with music.

From talented locals to A-list celebrities, the city of Austin is a destination for all performers — whether it be for a concert at an arena or gig at Waterloo Records or Stubb’s Bar-B-Q.

Not only does the live music capital host thousands of concerts throughout the year, but the city is also home to festivals including Austin City Limits and SXSW Music Festival.

According to the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city is home to more than 250 music venues ranging from small bars along Sixth Street to the Frank Erwin Center located on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin and Zilker Park.

Multiple reports offer the simple explanation that Austin was dubbed the live music capital for having more live music venues per capita than anywhere else in the United States, but here’s the slogan’s real origin:

According to Austin’s NPR Station, KUT 90.5, the earliest use of “Live Music Capital of the World” is found in an advertisement placed by the Austin Chamber of Commerce in the July 1985 issue of Billboard magazine.

According to KUT 90.5, David Lord who worked to promote Austin’s music scene in the mid-‘80s says it was in 1985 during a trip to a music industry conference in New York that the chamber decided to place the magazine ad and needed a slogan.

According to Lord, the idea for the slogan came when someone in the group said “I wonder how many places we can go see live music on a Monday night?”

After taking a look at the concert listings in two Austin newspapers, the group tallied up more than 70 places and decided together that Austin is in fact the live music capital of the world.


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