City’s new music division manager stresses affordability and revenue

5:02 p.m Tuesday, July 11, 2017 Local
Erica Shamaly

The new manager of the city of Austin’s Music and Entertainment Division plans to prioritize affordability issues for local musicians, saying she wants to “create a foundation for our creators to be able to make a living.”

Erica Shamaly’s hiring was announced at a meeting of the Austin Music Commission on Monday at the Long Center. Shamaly, who comes to the position after three years as director of marketing for ACL Live and its sister venue 3Ten, described herself as an “Austin music lover” who has attended thousands of music shows since moving here from Houston in 1990 to attend the University of Texas.

“I don’t want to see more people leaving” because of affordability issues, Shamaly said in discussing challenges facing Austin musicians. Music Commission members quizzed Shamaly about her priorities and concerns, touching on issues such as alternative revenue streams beyond recording and performing, incentives to bring aspiring youths into Austin’s music culture, and the ongoing battles over the city’s “agent of change” proposal and looming CodeNext coding revisions.

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Kevin Johns, director of the city’s Economic Development Department, said Shamaly was chosen from an initial field of 51 candidates that was narrowed down to seven finalists. “Erica was just by far the top candidate,” he told the commission.

Shamaly stressed that part of living up to the city’s “Live Music Capital of the World” reputation was valuing the role of musicians.

“Everybody wants to be here, so they’re willing to work for cheap, and we need to get rid of that mindset,” she said. “It’s really all about revenue generation; that’s what we’re going to focus on.”

Organizations such as the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians have helped local artists deal with affordability issues, but such nonprofits face their own challenges. HAAM Executive Director Reenie Collins also spoke at Monday’s meeting to give a heads-up about some harsh budget realities on the horizon.

With 2,200 musicians on the rolls, HAAM membership is up 25 percent from last year, Collins said. Funding isn’t expanding at the same rate, which might result in a cap on new members when open enrollment begins in November, she said.

Recent figures from the Austin Music Census indicate that another 2,000 musicians might be eligible for HAAM. But “I’m not sure how we would keep up with the funding” if a lot more people applied, she said.

“I’m not really coming here to ask for anything,” she said, “but jut to let everybody know what’s going on with us, so that nobody will be surprised if we have to close to new members at some point.”

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Shamaly replaces Don Pitts, who resigned in February while on administrative leave after serving as the department’s program manager since the office was created in 2010. Before her position at ACL Live/3Ten, Shamaly spent a year as director of marketing and business development for the Reverb Appreciation Society, which presents Austin’s Levitation Festival (formerly Psych Fest).

Earlier, she co-founded the nonprofit Austin School of Film at Motion Media Arts Center in 2002 and served as its co-executive director for nine years. Shamaly received degrees in art history and studio art from the University of Texas in the mid-1990s.

Her first day on the job will be July 24. She’ll oversee “day-to-day operations of the Music and Entertainment Division and the 9 staff plus develop and implement initiatives that help accelerate the growth of the music and entertainment industry infrastructure,” according to a statement posted to the city of Austin Economic Development Department website.

The statement didn’t disclose Shamaly’s salary. Pitts’ salary when he departed was $95,180.80.

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