This is a good idea.
Qualifying Texas music venues could get up to $100,000 each in tax rebates on alcohol sales under legislation that has passed the House and Senate and now is on its way to Gov. Greg Abbott to be signed into law.
While paving the path for the next Selena, Roy Orbison or Bob Wills is important, State Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said the program is also about the 200,000 people who make their living in Texas music and the tourists who come to explore the state’s rich music history.
“The Texas music industry is a vital portion of the state’s economy,” Alvarado said in promoting Senate Bill 609, which would create the music incubator rebate program.
The state promotes the music industry prominently in tourism guides to generate business, but there has been little government help available to keep the doors open in iconic Texas music venues, and a number of them have been bulldozed in the last few years:
Threadgill’s in Austin — the former Armadillo World Headquarters — where Beaumont’s Janis Joplin got her start.
Fitzgerald’s in Houston where ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bun B ruled the stage.
The Roxy in Laredo, where Selena would meet key members of her band and play many shows as she was starting in the 1980s.
All are gone.
These aren’t just neighborhood bars looking for a handout, said Rebecca Reynolds, president of the Music Venue Alliance. She said the venues are an important part of the state’s cultural arts and need to be recognized by government leaders as such.
“Live music is a big part of who we are in Texas,” she said.
She said there is a value to the state for keeping places like these producing the music that has become a big piece of American history.
If Abbott signs the legislation, the music incubator program would be developed by the state’s Music, Film, Television, and Multimedia Office. By September 2022, the office would begin taking applications for a portion of the funding. The program would be funded by taxes on alcohol sales at the venues.
To be eligible for funding, venues would have to have an audience capacity of 3,000 people or less. Music festivals would also be eligible if they are in a county with a population of less than 100,000. Those venues and festivals have to have been operating for at least 2 years to be eligible.
Reynolds said it was important to make sure the little venues and festivals get help, and not the big music festivals like SXSW and the ACL Festival in Austin.
Here’s SB609. I see this as one part historic preservation and one part hedging against future disruptions like the COVID pandemic. There was money in the recent American Rescue Act that will help music venues for now, and this will hopefully help for the longer term. It’s a worthwhile investment.