Denver has more live music venues than Austin. Does it matter?

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Various Denver shows. Photos by Ken Hamblin, Eric Gruneisen and Brandon Marshall
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?

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."

See also: Governor Hickenlooper on why (and how) he wants to support Colorado music

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


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53 comments
Mad July
Mad July

Good article. Just read it.

Stephen Felt
Stephen Felt

Perhaps the guys over at the Tourism board should promote this. What do ya think?

Stacey Rogers
Stacey Rogers

Yeah, was thinking "more music venues that...what???"

Chris Heller
Chris Heller

I know Austin is cool in a lot of ways but I would not want to live there at all as I don't do humidity.

Carmen Stearns
Carmen Stearns

been to both, Austin, Denver. Both have great music.

Bill MacCallum
Bill MacCallum

It's true: Westword headlines are written by stoners.

Heather Koepp
Heather Koepp

Every bar in Austin has live music so if you think about that, any place can be a venue for music. Also Denver has nothing on Austin as far as the music festivals go..

Curtis Smole
Curtis Smole

Denver scene just seems to try to hard. Way too trendy.

Curtis Smole
Curtis Smole

Yes.....but the music in Austin is much better, and definitely more heartfelt.

Chloé Michelle
Chloé Michelle

lived by Austin almost my whole life..it's not that amazing or different anymore. it is full of pretentious hippies and people who are "so different" they have all become the same. Denver's music scene kicks everyones ass! and that is from experience in traveling and going to different venues across the country. BEST local bands, which leads to BEST openers, which results in a phenomenal all around show. And everyone fucking comes here, Denver is the shit.

taco4
taco4

It’s great you got a Gov. that cares about music but let’s look at the facts here.You have one corporately owned weekly arts and entertainment rag that list 98 “clubs” in the Denver area and one independent A&E rag that list 82 “clubs” in the Austin area.Just because you list it in your papers club listings doesn’t means it’s a “club” that regularly books and pays quality acts to perform on a stage with sound reinforcement AND people are willing to attend and pay good money to see on a regular basis. I’ve seen plenty of bands in both cities and just cuss two dues with laptops and light show are set up in your Sbarro’s don’t make it a legitimate “club”.It’s great that you have legalized pot but just put down the joint and really think about this for a minute.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

Denver is in Colorado, Austin is in texass.  Denver wins.

forresto
forresto

Denver will never be as weird or as cool as Austin, and will never have the seasoned music scene that has such a rich and diverse history. But it's the Mile High City! Home to no small number of talented artists and beautiful Redrocks! Progressive in many ways and sadly lagging especially when comes to human services and education. Austin transplants help make Denver a better Denver- not more like Austin.

Stefania Pulai Riley
Stefania Pulai Riley

Red Rocks is a cool place to see a concert, but way too expensive. I'd rather half the price and go to the filmore.

thesmartestguyhere
thesmartestguyhere

i dont know who wins the "best music town" debate but i sure know who has won the "dumbest debate ever" debate


why is austin cooler? because theyre not concerned with being better then denver

Ben Beeby
Ben Beeby

Is there a TV show that has run for 30 years called "Denver City Limits"? Look we have RED ROCKS, do we really need more than that?

David Thead
David Thead

They may have more venues, but people don't come often....Even Atlanta has a better music scene than Denver....smh

Deannajean Fact
Deannajean Fact

Certainly way way way more than Austin, Minnesota... Excellent Musicians out in Colorado...

Jack Baker
Jack Baker

Denver has more venues. It gets a bigger variety of artist.

Stan Salazar
Stan Salazar

Westword trying to stir the pot by getting a bunch of natives to come in here & bash Texas over something else again? Give it a rest.

Sarah Castle
Sarah Castle

Semaj, I'm sorry man, but you are wrong!!! Are you a musician? You can't possibly be, if you were you'd know that it's the opposite that is true. With first hand knowledge and experience, I can tell you Austin by far has the best scene. Denver has a lot of places to see live music, whereas, Austin just has a lot more live music to see. People go out 365 days out of the year to see music, not to mention the amount of festivals Austin puts on. The scene in Austin puts Denvers scene to shame!!!!!!!!

Jessica Roop
Jessica Roop

Gregg Looker It's on the list!I've had a few friends move out that way recently too.

Gregg Looker
Gregg Looker

Jessica Roop - maybe a Denver trip some day?

Rebecca Repp
Rebecca Repp

I wonder if the people who are making these claims have ever even been to Austin?!

Semaj Recnad
Semaj Recnad

I lived in Denver for 10 years, and now I live less than an hour from Austin... Austin may have more places to host live music, but Denver, BY FAR, has a higher quality scene. The local music is better and less ego-driven and the steady flow of touring acts is amazing. Don't get me wrong, Austin is beautiful and amazing, but when it comes to music... Denver is miles above Austin, pun intended.

Will Hayden
Will Hayden

Nope. More venues just divide audiences.

Rebecca Repp
Rebecca Repp

We may have more venues but they have music playing all day every day and they have stages in restaurants and bars and coffee shops. Everywhere you go in Austin has a live band playing! I do think Denver has an awesome music scene but definitely can't compete with Austin!

Shayne Barrett
Shayne Barrett

Very sad comparison. Austin allows live music pretty much anywhere you can set up and the owners allow you.... which is pretty much any place. Not so in Denver. I live in Colorado and spent my vacation in Austin. Austin wins.... hands down. :/

neezynate25
neezynate25

It really doesn't put Denver to shame. I'd say they are pretty on point with each other. Denver is way more diverse with the bands it fosters. Austin is turning into LA, ego driven, and unaccessible bands competing with each other; while Denver bands act like a family and support each other. If anything you are completely wrong.

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@fishingblues @muhutdafugaIf you study real hard, they might move you up to special ed. 

Once again, you continue posting off topic, instead you post about your bizarre fantasies about me.  What is even more odd is you feel that someone might be interested in your spew.

To get back to the topic, Texass would be a better place for you, there are more radical Reich wing nuts there.  That's why Denver will always be a better city for most things, despite DPS administration and goobers like fishingblues.  

muhutdafuga
muhutdafuga topcommenter

@fishingblues @muhutdafugaYou can tell when a radical right wing nut is defeated.  They start calling names and making up insults.  If you like the lies of fish boy, you'll love the goober elements of texass.

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