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Survey: Austin live music venues in serious danger of closure by fall

"The main reason people come here is that it is the Live Music Capital of the World," said William Brannam, Cedar Street Courtyard owner.

AUSTIN, Texas — A new survey conducted by the University of Houston’s Hobby School of Public Affairs shows 90% of Austin's live music venues could permanently close by Halloween. 

"The main reason people come here is that it is the Live Music Capital of the World," said William Brannam, Cedar Street Courtyard owner.

Live music is the air running through the lungs of Austin. 

"You could go anywhere downtown a year ago and you would have 200 musicians playing," said Brannam.

But now, live music in Austin is in jeopardy. 

Venues like Barracuda have already permanently closed. Others such as Cedar Street Courtyard in Downtown Austin are sitting in silence, temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

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"I know venues that have been around for 20-plus years that may very well not be around anymore," said Brannam. 

Brannam and his partner, Kevin Ship, said their place could be next. 

"I will say right now it's 50/50," said Brannam.

The survey also showed that 67% of live music venues are paying less than half of their rent balance. 

"If we go a few more months, we won't even be able to pay the reduced rent," said Brannam. 

Having large music festivals like Austin City Limits and SXSW canceled was catastrophic for live music venues. 

"We usually can make enough money to pay our bills for the entire year during SXSW," said Brannam. 

Brannam said if live music venues could reopen at 25% capacity, he believes they will have a fighting chance to make it through the pandemic. 

“It’s a way to move the economy forward and give people a fighting chance," explained Brannam. "When you close everything down, nobody has a fighting chance.”   

The survey also found that 83% of music venues laid off their full-time employees, and 79% of music venues suspended payments to vendors, suppliers and landlords. 

Brannam said, thankfully, he was able to move his employees at Cedar Street Courtyard to his other live music venue and restaurant: Emerald Point Bar and Grill.

“It’s still not the same," said Brannam. "They are not making the money they were making and not working as many hours." 

With no clear understanding of when live music venues will get relief, you have to wonder what would Austin be like without live music. 

"If the music goes away, what is going to happen to the convention traffic, what's going to happen to all of these hotels that were just built," asked Brannam. "What else is there for people to do in Austin?" 

Brannam said it is up to the government and the public if live music venues will be in Austin come 2021. 

WATCH: Austin music venues in jeopardy of closing

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