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#InConversationWith Brendon Anthony - The state of music policy making in Texas

"The main role of the Texas Music Office is to ensure that the Texas Music Industry and the people that rely on it as their livelihood are well represented both at home in Texas and nationally by decision makers in Congress"

Brendon Anthony

The Texas Music Office is one of the older (if not the oldest) modern music office in the world. Over the past 25 years, its work has been fundamental in strengthening the livelihood of the local music community through political processes such as the passing of the Music Modernization Act and by giving support in the face of emergencies such as the COVID pandemic, the Astroworld Festival Tragedy. Over the past 2+ decades, the work of Texas Music Office has been evolving constantly with overall positive results. As a result, this organisation has become a sort of gold standard of how a world class music office should look like. This is why it's no surprise that the TMO is frequently pointed out as a best practice examples by leaders of thought in the music cities scene.

For this week's #InConversationWith we sat down with Brendon Anthony, Director of the Texas Music Office, to get some insights on music policy in Texas and all of the projects that are part of this organisation. Scroll down to learn about inspiring projects such as the Music License Plate Programme, the Texas Music Incubator Programme and more

Do you want to connect with other music professionals and advocates that are is using music to promote social, cultural and economic development in its community? Then join the Music Cities Community.

Hi Brendon, it's always exciting to chat with you and discover new details of the work of the Texas Music Office and overall music policy making in Texas.

To begin this conversation, we'd like to ask you about the evolution of the Texas Music Office. Can you tell us about the main concerns when the office was created in 1990, and how they have evolved through time?

When the office was created, early on the main concerns were about creating the clearinghouse for information about the industry as laid out in the legislative mandate that created the office in the early 90’s. To that end, a database was created and a“whitepage” was produced annually and made available to industry stakeholders in Texas and across the country. Many found this very useful prior to the advent of the online search engine, which eventually made these “whitepages” largely obsolete.

Currently, the overarching concern is to make the office relevant within the greater music industry and advocacy landscape. Since I started to lead the office in 2015 we've been forging new and stronger connections with national trade organizations, PROs, and elected leadership both in statehouse and in Congress.

This has been key to address relevant concerns for the Texas music ecosystem such as the Copyright reform (Music Modernization Act), DOJ rulings, anti-piracy concerns, policies pertaining to music venue protection and support, concert safety (I chaired the committee that investigated and reported to the Governor re the Astroworld tragedy).

What would you say are the state’s biggest needs regarding music policy making?

The main need that I address from my role as head of the TMO is to ensure that the Texas Music Industry and the people that rely on it as their livelihood are well represented both at home in Texas and nationally by decision makers in Congress. Culturally, the artists and music industry professionals do a fine job of putting Texas music on the map internationally.

My job, and the mission of the TMO, is to speak to the policy and economic concerns that they face as they make their small businesses work. It is our responsibility to weigh in as decisions are made locally, and at state and federal level that may cause harm to the industry or move it forward in a positive direction. Finding legislative champions in Texas and in DC who can make change happen for our industry is of vital importance.

austin music hub

As a person looking from the outside, it seems that Austin is Texas’ biggest music hub. Do you think its position as the main music city of the State will change any time soon?

Austin is the center of gravity for the Texas music scene and has been for over 50 years. As Austin continues to experience unprecedented growth its creative class will continue to be forced to adapt and make economic decisions that may force a percentage to leave the city proper and find less expensive areas to call home. Lockhart, Georgetown, San Marcos, New Braunfels, Wimberly and other surrounding communities are all landing spots for those former Austin residents looking to escape increasing rents and property taxes.

Austin has some of the finest music venues of all sizes in the country and they will still continue to showcase local talent regardless. City programs have pitched in to help a great deal and they serve as a model for any creative community that seeks to support its local creative class. The non-profit community in Austin and surrounding counties is incredibly strong as well. Overall, Austin is one of the MOST supported music industry communities in the country, if not the world. 

What are other music cities in Texas that we should be paying attention to and why? 

Fort Worth in particular is worthy of mention here. Their music office, Hear Fort Worth  (formed as a part of the Music Friendly Texas program operated by TMO) has been incredibly active and responsive to the needs of the local music industry. Their initiatives and focus are truly noteworthy.  

texas music hubs

Going back the work of the Texas Music Office. We think that the organisation is a good example of a gold standard for other Music Offices around the world. So, could you give us a small introduction into the most relevant and exciting projects that are part of the organisation?

Music Friendly Communities: It provides a single point of contact responsible for reporting to the TMO and for listening to the local music industry community. Upon my appointment in 2015, I realized that there was zero (0) connectivity between this state agency (TMO) and industry stakeholders in communities around Texas. This had to be remedied immediately and MFT became our solution. 

Texas Music Incubator Rebate Programme: Texas Music Venues have vastly different economic challenges than bars and restaurants. This program we created offers rebates on mixed alcohol and beverage taxes up to $100k each fiscal year for qualifying live music venues across the state. The TMO was allocated $20.2 million to fund the first 2 fiscal years of this program. It will be replenished by the legislature each biennium. 

Music License Plate: The license plate program provides non-profit orgs grants that allow for music programming in underserved areas of the state. The program also helps by providing instruments to students interested in continuing in their music education journey. Currently, there is over $60k in available funding for applicants. The Texas Music License plate grant program is a special one for sure. It was created in legislation several years ago and rebranded in 2015 in order to increase sales to better support the non-profit community and create music opportunities in underserved communities across the state. 

Economic Impact Study: the TMO produces this study each biennium prior to the Texas Legislative Session. Updated economic data allows us to provide insight into the health of the music industry economy as it relates to our constituency. We share this data with elected leadership, oversight committees, and anyone else who is  interested in the impact of the Texas Music industry. Senator John Cornyn (TX) notably used this report as he voiced his support for the Music Modernization Act as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Music Industry Directory & Resources, Music Licensing Guide: The bedrock database system that we operate at TMO. This allows us to create the eco impact studies biennially and allows constituents to connect with one another. 

Event Production Guide: The central repository for guides and training courses that allow promoters to create mass gatherings safely anywhere. A product of the work done by the Task Force on Concert Safety. 

Task Force on Concert Safety: Convened at the direction of the Governor of Texas to look into the failures experienced before, during, and after the Astroworld tragedy. 

Did you enjoyed unpacking the work of the Texas Music Office? Do you want to connect with other music professionals and advocates that are is using music to promote social, cultural and economic development in its community? Then join the Music Cities Community.

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