The Problem With San Antonio's Music Scene

by 9001 Studios

by 9001 Studios

Music isn’t the only thing struggling to maintain “value” in 2016. The value of work in general in the United States has been under appreciated for years. Physical labor is looked down upon and even labeled as unskilled. Value systems have been undermined and distorted in the 21st century through the fetishizing of wealth and the failed promise of an information economy.   

In conversations about SA music with general listeners, musicians, venue management, promoters and other professionals a variety of issues come up.  Within the industry, it's often: there is not enough money to go around. But San Antonio spends a lot of money outside the home on a list of activities such as outdoor recreation, theater, professional sports, the movies, cocktail bars, special events, etc. There’s a larger pie than what is currently being spent on local music and there is public information that can give us an idea of how much (it just needs to be collected). San Antonio’s local music business overall has more potential for growth than what appears on the surface, but there are many obstacles that stand in the way. Here’s a list of other thoughts/cautions/observations that come up in conversation with people of all types, some are also my own ideas:

  • Bands could once do well with great songs, but now you have to create an entire ecosystem that surrounds your art and become a brand developer, salesperson, video editor, social media manager etc etc. resulting in less time spent writing songs and performing.

  • Late night public transportation options 

  • downtown parking 

  • The Riverwalk is not a happening place. It’s mostly restaurants that are tame, expensive and it's usually quiet and dark by 9:30/10pm during the week. 

  • Military members are out-of-towners that aren’t exactly tourists, but they are temporary visitors and they are looking for adult activities, not a mirror maze, not a theme park, not a high priced restaurant. 

  • The Strip is relatively close downtown, but the nature of The Strip or even Southtown results in little foot traffic, like other dense locations such as Blue Star or Commerce St. Walkabiltiy and density can play an important role.

  • Is a study to necessary determine: Who goes where and when, from what parts of town do they come from? How many times a month do people between 18-35 make that 40 minute round trip drive plus paying to park plus a cover charge? 

  • Too many communities separated and divided by highways and suburbia. 


by 9001 Studios

by 9001 Studios


  • Strip centers and venues/bars outside 410 have an image problem – in that conversation I routinely hear people who live close to downtown despise having to go outside the loop and the closer you live to 1604 the less and less likely those folks go downtown. 

  • General music listener's reluctance to invest time listening to local music and attending strictly local music events.

  • Band’s audience/friends stay for their 1 friends’ band and then all leave.  

  • 15-20 years ago, there weren’t the digital entertainment options you find today (Unlimited movies for $10 a month, podcasts, social media, YouTube, etc)

  • I’ve seen local hip-hop artists with substantial followings sidelined while rock bands who can hardly attract 50 people to a show get the highly visible gigs with local sponsors.    

  • Local bands rely on San Antonio popularity too much for their career (don’t worry too much about being popular here). 

  • Fans complain about the lack of variety of major concerts, that San Antonio doesn’t get enough current mega celebrities. 

  • Artists and observers often say SA music is “clique-ish”, that there is rampant favoritism and nepotism when it comes to getting booked or partnering on high profile events/concerts.

  • Local awareness of artists outside of guitar oriented bands. 

  • Everyone wants to do things their own way and collaboration often happens between the same sets of people. There are existing organizations with the mission to provide services or do x,y&z that a new group of people create every few years. 

  • Not enough money. There aren’t enough publicists or agents for bands in San Antonio because artists don’t have money to pay them. There aren’t any famous studios, because there aren’t enough artists who can afford to pay for studio time. Touring is expensive.  Vinyl is expensive. 

  • There are dozens of existing weekly events with live music that are not filled to capacity. The call for more venues and events makes little sense, that energy should be put toward efforts of mobilizing the non-engaged and funneling them into existing events. 

  • Why does symphonic music deserve city and/or endowment funding, large donations, etc. but other types of musicians and performers are on their own? Shouldn't we as a city value all genres equally, is the preservation of tradition in everyone's interest. 

  • No proper nightclub downtown San Antonio. 

  • Not enough equipment rental companies with affordable prices and quality equipment.