Denver has more live music venues than Austin. Does it matter?
Governor John Hickenlooper has been insisting that Denver has more music venues than Austin since he was mayor of Denver. It's an interesting claim. But is it true?
Various Denver shows. Photos by Ken Hamblin, Eric Gruneisen and Brandon Marshall
The two cities aren't bad for comparison's sake. The population of the city of Denver is a little over 634,000 people, with 2.6 million in the metropolitan area. Austin has some 842,000 people within the city limits and 1.8 million in the metro area.
To make the case, we asked Westword clubs editor Jon Solomon, who has spent countless hours entering every single show in town into our concert calendar, to count Denver's live-music venues using the following criteria: "These are all the venues that I, someone who writes about music for a living, will frequent in an effort to see original music, be it local or via a touring act."
Westword's media equivalent in Texas's state capital is the Austin Chronicle, which also employs someone to document this. His name is Chase Hoffberger, and we presented him with the exact same request.
Hoffberger's tally for live-music venues in Austin was 82. Solomon's was 98 for Denver.
There's more. Pollstar is a California-based trade publication that tracks concerts around the country. Its listings for Denver, though admittedly incomplete and clearly prone to unfairly rewarding bigger promotional entities, include shows at every kind of venue, from the 1up to the Walnut Room to the Pepsi Center. From now until the end of the year, it lists 668 concerts planned for the Denver metropolitan area and 555 for Austin and its environs.
So there's your proof: Denver has more live-music venues than Austin, and it hosts more shows.
It's a surprising outcome -- Austin's official motto is "The Live Music Capital of the World" -- though apparently one that Hickenlooper was right about all along. But what's more interesting is that a high-ranking elected official would bother to say it. In Hickenlooper's case, the passion is personal. "I try to go to concerts whenever I can, just because I love music," he told us recently. He sees a commitment to music in his role as a public servant, as well.
"It also helps people to live here -- especially young people, but everybody -- if they believe in their city and believe in their state," he said. "If people think that Colorado is a beacon for artists and creative people who are really talented, I think they're going to be a little happier during the day, and I think they're going to be a little more successful at their job, no matter what their job is."
Music has a demonstrable economic impact on a city. The governor pointed out that several billion dollars move through Denver in the form of concert tickets, spending at venues, salaries for employees there, and payments to musicians, among other things.
The context of Hickenlooper's claims about Denver's live-music scene over the years were often in answer to questions about the overall health of the city and as part of an effort to entice people to come to Colorado, whether as tourists, transplants or (best of all, from an economic standpoint) with an entire company as it moves to the shadow of the Rocky Mountains. "I think my role is to celebrate [music]," he said.
Continue to page two to read why the numbers are misleading