AUSTIN, Texas - One year after Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced SXSW was canceled because of the threat of COVID-19, instead of preparing for a shutdown, many Austin music venues are getting ready to reopen.
Ever since Gov. Greg Abbott announced that all businesses, including music venues, bars, and clubs, could reopen beginning March 10, business owners have been considering their next steps.
"We at Tammy Miranda Music Productions have been getting phone calls left and right," said Bruce Island Mind, a musician and booking agent at Tammy Miranda Music Productions.
"People are excited for this to come back," said Dave Machinist, co-owner of Empire Control Room and Garage.
Booking agents are working around the clock to bring artists back to stages of all sizes. "I think no good has come with music's absence and I think only good things are gonna come with music coming back, for the musicians and people that get to see us," Island Mind said.
However, the pressure to strike the right note with artists, staff, and customers has many venue owners proceeding with caution.
"The venues have gone above and beyond with these new protocols and things, that I don't think it's just gonna be like back to normal. I think the collective conscience of basically everybody in the scene is we're still going to be smart about this," said Island Mind.
"The idea of lifting those restrictions immediately, without any lead up to it, isn't a great way to reintroduce concerts and in-person events again to Austin's nightlife," Machinist said.
At Empire Control Room and Garage there's room for outdoor shows. They've been hosting them there with temperature checks, mask requirements, and socially distanced tables since October. They don't plan to change their tune just yet.
"It might be a little less crowded, a little more comfortable, better view, same great sound and live lights and production," said Machinist.
Venues like ACL Live at the Moody Theater and Antone's Nightclub also plan to keep occupancy down and social distancing and masking up.
Still, even with precautions in place, some artists aren't ready to return to the stage. "Certain musicians are still not comfortable and that's fair. Not everyone's going to be comfortable with this," Island Mind said.
Once everyone is comfortable, music venues in the Live Music Capital of the World won't skip a beat. "When science says it's right, we're gonna make more steps to relax some of our rules, but also keep the goal in mind, which is to eradicate COVID-19 and to not let our beautiful neighborhood die. Keep music alive in Austin, Texas," said Machinist.
With SXSW canceling in-person festivals for the second year in a row, local musicians said there are more opportunities for them to play Austin venues this Spring.