San Antonio's Many Music Scenes


a long time ago I had a conversation with a friend who doesn’t come from the music world and I was describing our strategy for growing my band’s audience. Half way through she took pause and said something to the effect of, “I don’t like the idea of a band wanting only certain people to listen to your music. Shouldn’t it be for everyone.” That is certainly the idea, imo, for most bands: get the entire planet listening to your jams. At the time I felt, “I would rather have a small venue packed to max with die hard, educated music fans & critics, than a stadium full of dude-bros and screaming girls”.  

Why would a rapper go to a country & western bar to perform? Does that make sense? It would most certainly be interesting and one might walk away with a few solid fans, but as a rule: no. Targeting ones music to specific people is a default strategy, if your band has a banjo, you might not be performing at Tryst in Las Vegas. What about San Antonio? Are there different musical inclinations in different neighborhoods? Yes. San Antonio is one of the most income-segregated cities in the country, is in south TX, has a history of redlining, etc etc. Music preference as it relates to class is not causal but a correlative relation. You’re background doesn’t 100% dictate what you music you listen to but it has significant influence.

Having been back in San Antonio for almost 2 solid years now (lived in Austin for 10), I’ve noticed the many concentric circles of music participation in SA. EDM DJs and house DJs mix like water and oil, similar to punk and metal. Metal has a home but has become incredibly niche having escaped into the darkness somewhere. Parts of town remain isolated and are about an hours drive round trip to music events. The venues scattered outside of 410, exist in islands of nightlife, there is not much else happening around these locations. Promoters and organizers don’t only compete, they’ve black listed each other. (queue Rodney King). They have separate events, with more or less the same musicians, but often in different venues and are loyal to certain locations. In music, you don’t have just one function, you do it all. And you do it all, because there’s no money it. The competition is real.

The large scale venues/promoters/ talent buyers don’t get involved with the entry-level-daily-grind musician in any appreciable way here in San Antonio. They should. That’s how growth and innovation will take place in the San Antonio’s music and entertainment industry. The money and access should mix with hard work and need. Necessity is the mother of all invention, and those at the top don’t need anything.

The separated groups/sections interact with customers in their own way, resulting in the listeners and the audiences being separated as well. The separation is perhaps a result of geography (EDM & rock listeners in the north, house and indie downtown. Spanish language and hiphop urrvrywhere else), or a result of how the music groups/sections operate. (Remember when LiveIn210 would book at Josabi’s. What if Interpol and Lauren Hill came downtown? You could ride your bike over to catch some craft beer and a DJ.)

The groups/sections are concentric with occasional overlap, but these loyalties, grudges, competitions, & perceptions of inferiority need to change. San Antonio’s music scenes could unify into a more cohesive experience. An experience that’s a part of the new San Antonio. 

The music world is full of working class struggle and full of authentic, unique creativity. If the big shots could commit to incentivizing our music businesses in a way that isn’t some tepid gesture of charity, seed monies could work to fulfill the necessity only us grinders feel. There isn’t just real money to be made, there’s a facet our city’s cultural identity to be defined.