The music plays, the audience dances and Stacie Agnew, pianist and backup vocalist for local band Jade Vine, goes home with $50 in her pocket.
Despite myths that musicians can easily make a living, Agnew said it takes hard work. For many Austin bands and musicians, it’s not feasible to make playing local music their only source of income.
“It’s a side hustle,” Agnew said. “But it’s a really fun side hustle.”
Agnew, a recent UT alum, said she began playing with Jade Vine the summer before her junior year of college, splitting her focus between schoolwork, music and singing in her church choir. In addition to her role in Jade Vine, Agnew also plays in another band and teaches music lessons at ZACH Theatre and two local schools.
“Everyone’s got a job,” Agnew said. “Then we make music, which is good because if we do two gigs a week and get like $50 each, that’s an extra hundred.”
Agnew said playing with Jade Vine is the fun aspect of being a musician. It allows her to be creative, while her teaching job requires technical thinking. Agnew’s other bandmates have similar employment situations, balancing work and making music while trying to make a living.
On top of that, a lot more goes into making music than people might think, Agnew said.
“Making it in the music industry takes merch, exposure and creating music that people pick up,” Agnew said.
Part of rising to popularity in the Austin music scene is finding connections with people who have influence and knowledge in the industry. It also involves understanding where revenue comes from. Agnew said because Jade Vine is a below-the-radar band consisting of multiple musicians, they generate revenue by booking gigs rather than through online streaming, as they are better suited for live performances. Dayglow singer Sloan Struble, who said he makes more revenue from streaming as a solo artist, also said luck also plays a significant role in the process.
Struble said he’s been making music since he was 10 years old and started producing legitimately under his stage name, Dayglow, about two years ago. After completing his freshman year at UT in May, he decided to drop out and focus on his music career after it grew much faster than he initially expected.
“School serves the purpose of giving people career direction,” Struble said. “But I already have a career. It didn’t make sense to stay for a degree to get a job if I already have one right now.”
Luca Falcone, also known as Foxmouth, said it is difficult for him to book downtown gigs because the Austin music scene is so saturated with talented groups, and venues that will provide exposure are highly sought after.
To make up for the lost income, Falcone picks up small jobs wherever he can. But ultimately, he loves his line of work.
“The only issue with that is dealing with rejection,” Falcone said. “But I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. You have to remember to pull yourself up and keep trying.”
Editor's Note: This article has been updated since it was originally published.