Austin vs. Nashville: The Live Music Capital of the World and Music City compete for talent, tourists
Austin or Nashville? This question is a familiar one to aspiring musicians looking for a place to start their career, bachelor and bachelorette party planners in search of a fun destination and millennials escaping more expensive coastal cities.
Chris Broach, 44, is also asking. A musician who works a remote day job in tech, he lives in the Highland Park suburb north of Chicago with his wife and their three young children. The couple is considering a move to Austin or Nashville, drawn in by their music scenes, milder winters and relative affordability. "Housing-wise, we can get something for what we have now (in Chicago) that's probably double the size outside of Austin," he said. "It's not affordable where we're coming from."
Although Broach worries about the conservative state politics and extreme summers, he knows he likes Austin after touring here and playing at Fun Fun Fest and South by Southwest. "If it was between Austin and Nashville, I think Austin really wins for me," he told Austonia.
Those who live or have lived in Nashville, TN. or Austin, TX. This is coming from an artist's / musician's standpoint, mostly - but I'm interested in all feedback.
- Why should/shouldn't we move to Austin, TX?
- Why should/shouldn't we move to Nashville, TN?#Austin #Nashville
— Chris Broach (@chrisbroach) February 28, 2021
Here's how the two Southern capital cities stack up across 11 categories.
1. Music towns
Austin, the Live Music Capital of the World, is known for its festival scene—from Austin City Limits to South by Southwest—and iconic venues, such as Antone's, Broken Spoke and the Continental Club. It's also home to many successful musicians, including Willie Nelson, Gary Clark Jr., The Black Pumas and Shakey Graves.
Nashville is not only home to attractions like the Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium and Country Music Hall of Fame but also a hub for recording studios, many of them located on Music Row, a National Treasure of the National Trust. RCA Studio B, built in 1957, is widely credited as the birthplace of the Nashville Sound and was once home to Elvis Presley. Other nearby studios have hosted everyone from Shania Twain and Taylor Swift to Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.
2. Expanding airportsBright skies ahead: Austin airport anticipates continued growth after pandemic turbulence (Austin-Bergstrom International Airport/Facebook)
Austin-Bergstrom has tripled its passenger numbers since opening in 1999. Between 2011 and 2019 it was the third-fastest growing airport in the country, and the Federal Aviation Administration ranked it second among medium-sized hubs in 2019 based on passenger boarding numbers (more than 8.5 million) and year-over-year growth (more than 10%).
Nashville International was the top-ranked medium-sized hub, with nearly 9 million passengers and 11.45% year-over-year growth. Similar to ABIA, the Nashville airport is in the midst of a major renovation and expansion project intended to meet growing demand.
3. Must eats
Austin has a lot to offer on the food front, from barbecue worth queuing for at Franklin and La Barbecue to breakfast tacos at countless joints around town.
Nashville is known for its hot chicken, especially when served at Hattie B's Hot Chicken and Prince's Hot Chicken Shack. (Tumble 22 in Austin is a good shortcut when a trip to Tennessee isn't possible.)
4. Party scenesWith loosened pandemic restrictions and a revived tourism economy, Austin's party boat businesses are anticipating a busy season—and letting out a sigh of relief. (Raudel HInojosa/Premier Party Cruises)
In addition to well-known going-out districts—Dirty Sixth and Rainey Street in Austin, Honky Tonk Highway in Nashville—both cities are magnets for bachelor and bachelorette parties.
Nashville takes first place and Austin ranks fifth, behind Scottsdale, Miami and Las Vegas, according to a 2021 travel trends report from Bach, a party planning service. As Austinites know, party members tend to seek out Airbnb house rentals, spend their days on pedal pubs and booze cruises, and can be easily spotted posing in matching outfits, sometimes with sashes.
5. Housing costsSteep competition, cash offers and ‘hockey stick’ prices: On the ground of Austin’s ‘brutal’ housing market
Austin is more expensive than Nashville, with the steepest increase in the housing category, according to the Council for Community & Economic Research's cost of living index. A person moving from Nashville to Austin can expect to pay nearly 23% more in housing costs.
The median income in the city of Austin is $71,576, compared to $59,828 in Nashville, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median home sales price in the Austin metro is $465,000, compared to $400,000 in the Nashville metro, according to the Austin Board of Realtors and Greater Nashville Realtors.
The Austin metro showed the fifth-largest decline in housing affordability among 50 U.S. markets, according to a recent report by First American Financial Corp. The median home price in the city of Austin hit an all-time high of $566,500 in May, rising more than $142,450 year-over-year, according to ABoR. And prices across the five-county Austin metro are rising at an even faster rate, worsening an existing affordability crisis and pricing out many aspiring first-time homebuyers.
6. Millennial migration
Millennials are flowing out from most of the largest U.S. cities—including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles—and headed West and South, according to SmartAsset's 2021 Where Millenials Are Moving report. Austin ranked fourth, with a net migration of 5,686 millennials in 2019, and Nashville ranked 21st, with a net migration of 1,893 millennials.
Although Austin beats Nashville in terms of millennial in-migration, Nashville is one of the few cities gaining more Austinites than the reverse. Between 2014 and 2018, 519 Nashville residents moved to Austin while 741 Austinites moved to Nashville, for a net loss of 222, according to an Austin Chamber analysis of U.S. Census Bureau.
7. Local politicsTrump supporters protest election results outside governor's mansion
Austin and Nashville are both liberal capital cities in conservative states. During the 2020 presidential election, nearly 72% of Travis County residents voted for Joe Biden, compared to 46.5% of Texans, and nearly 65% of Davidson County residents did, compared to fewer than 38% of Tennesseans, according to Politico.
8. Sports cultureAustin FC is down 1-0 at the half against Nashville SC. (Austin FC/Twitter)
Both have new Major League Soccer teams. Austin FC debuted earlier this year only a year after Nashville SC became a member of the league. Nashville is currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference, while Austin ranks 12th in the Western Conference, ahead of only Vancouver. Nashville SC beat Austin FC 1-0 in a May 23 match.
9. Population growth
Both cities posted double-digit population growth between 2010 and 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Austin, with a population of 978,908, grew 22.1%, and Nashville, with a population of 670,820, grew 11.2%.
With such popularity comes growing pains. Austin's affordability crisis—and attendant issues, such as homelessness—is deepening. Nashville shares these issues as well as others familiar to Austinites: transit expansion, crime reduction and school system improvements.
10. Bottoms upDesert Door distillery in Driftwood, Texas. (Emma Freer)
Austin and Nashville have strong drinking cultures, with craft breweries and distilleries galore. Austinites know and love local businesses from Austin Eastciders to Zilker Brewing Co., as well as destination sites such as Desert Door Distillery and Fredericksburg wineries.
Until 2009, only three distillers were allowed to produce alcohol in the state of Tennessee. Now they're more abundant: Corsair Distillery has two Nashville locations; H Clark Distillery produces gin, bourbon and whiskey; and Nelson's Green Brier Distillery was revived by the founder's great-great-great-grandsons. Plus, there's always the Jack Daniel's Distillery.
11. Green spaces
Austinites love their wide open spaces, including Zilker Park, Hamilton Pool, Barton Springs and Lake Austin. Straddling the Colorado River, Austin ranked 45th among the 100 largest U.S. cities, according to the 2021 ParkScore index. It received its highest mark in investment and lowest mark in equity.
Nashville is known for Centennial Park, a 132-acre oasis that's home to a full-scale replica of The Parthenon, which was built for the 1897 Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition. It also straddles a river, the Cumberland, and ranked 86th on the 2021 ParkScore index, receiving its highest mark for acreage and lowest mark for access.
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Actor, director and screenwriter Justin Theroux isn't the only famous member of his family. His canine companion Kuma made waves online this past weekend supporting Austin Pets Alive!—and Jennifer Aniston is a fan.
Theroux launched Kuma's own Instagram account on Saturday with a link to Austin Pets Alive!'s website in her bio. And the grey pitbull mix is already garnering the kind of attention worthy of her movie star dad: As of Monday night, she has over 55,000 followers.
Chief among them is Jennifer Aniston, who posted a photo of Theroux and his newly online dog on her Instagram story yesterday with fond words for the Austin shelter.
"Love what these two are doing to help people who help pups who help people," the 'Friends' star, and Theroux's ex-wife, wrote. "They helped save 60 pups at Austin Pets Alive! yesterday."
Theroux began volunteering at the shelter while filming 'The Leftovers' in Austin when he fell in love with the shelter's pitbulls, according to Dr. Ellen Jefferson, Austin Pets Alive! president and CEO.
"We are thrilled that he and Kuma are spreading the word about the work APA! is doing and the need to keep Austin no-kill," she said, referring to the shelter's commitment to save animals most at risk for euthenasia.
Theroux adopted his mut in 2018 after Kuma was rescued—dirty and injured—from the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey by A Chance to Bloom Dog Rescue, based in Conroe, Texas.
While Kuma is not from APA!, Theroux connected with the Conroe-based non-profit while visiting the Austin shelter, and he has remained "an enthusiastic supporter" ever since, Jefferson said.
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Six days a week, thousands of onlookers tune in to live streams to watch the pros rake it all in at high-stakes poker tournaments. The big-name poker players aren't in Las Vegas or even Oklahoma's finest casinos—instead, they're where Texas Hold 'Em gets its name.
Gambling may be illegal in Texas, but over a hundred poker houses are using a loophole to open up shop across the state, especially in Austin and Dallas.
The classic poker game is finally getting played for real cash around the Lone Star State thanks to an exception in Texas' gambling ban that allows poker games to be played in private residences. Instead of taking a cut from the pot like traditional gambling ventures, private poker houses don't make money from the results of a game; instead, they get their revenue from membership and hourly fees.
It's a business strategy that's gone (mostly) unchallenged by Texas politicians, especially as the industry begins to heat up.
Austin may now have around 20 poker houses around town, but it wasn't long ago that one stood alone like a small town saloon. The city's premiere poker house, Texas Card House, was founded in 2015 and has since grown to include a YouTube channel with over 30,000 subscribers, a wide range of gameplay and regular visits from big-name poker gurus like Brad Owen and Doug Pope.
David Lagana, a content creator who has worked in college sports and Hollywood, was brought into the scene in May as the house's live streams began to blow up. He said the live streaming battleground is only beginning.
"The space is ever-growing," Lagana said. "It's been interesting to try and find a lane that everybody can succeed. It's all about finding something that people want to watch on a nightly basis."
Can Player BLUFF Andrew Neeme and Brad Owen on LIVE Stream?
Watch now - https://t.co/4Wt4s5Z0V7@TheBradOwen @andrewneeme pic.twitter.com/Yg4R0c0sj2
— Texas Card House (@texascardhouse) August 25, 2021
Carolyn Hapgood, who has worked for Texas Card House for three years, has made a name for herself as a live stream producer, dealer and player herself with the company. She's seen Texas Card House grow from a two-room card house to the most well-known poker venue in Austin with another branch in Dallas.
"It was a teeny tiny little house with five tables, and that was the first legal card house in the state," Hapgood said. "And since then it's blown up."
Texas Card House dealer Carolyn Hapgood has been working with Austin's premier poker house since 2018. (Texas Poker House Austin/Facebook)
From $100 pots to buy-ins of $15,000 or more, Texas Card House has it all, especially as in-state players learn more about the game. Hapgood said there isn't really a typical poker player at the house—instead, the poker table forms an "interesting little ecosystem" that includes college students, a 93-year old Vietnam War veteran, online gamblers, old-school players and everyone in between. The diversity at the table has been enhanced even further by COVID as people clamor to return to in-person events.
But Texas Card House no longer holds a "royal flush" in Austin's poker culture. The Lodge, based in Round Rock, is now expanding to over 60 tables, the largest in Texas, while Palms Social Club, owned by Texas Card Houses' original owner Sam Von Kennel, brought service staff and a refined atmosphere to the Austin scene.
Hapgood said the base of poker players is very large and continues to grow, forming a community as players form friendships on and off the table.
"My favorite part of the poker community is how much fun we have," Hapgood said. "You sit at a table with eight of your friends, everyone's kind of just having a good time. There's a lot of players who will, you know, call or text each other after they're done playing, and they end up inviting each other barbecues, and going out to dinner with their families and stuff like that... those are my favorite people to hang out with."
Getting involved in the poker scene is as easy as tuning into a live stream, and Lagana hopes to see more outsiders like himself get inspired by poker in the future.
"It's kind of like life," Lagana said. "Life isn't just one hand to play... you're only in control of sort of what's in your hand (and) you can't play the card that you weren't dealt with. So it's really been a fascinating life lesson for me."
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From four-time Grammy-nominee turned big-screen actor, Black Pumas frontman Eric Burton will debut in the sci-fi short film "Devexity," which is written, directed by and stars Austinites.
The film, brought to life by Austin-based filmmaker Luke Lidell, will premiere on Oct. 7 at the Native Hostel while Burton is in town for Austin City Limits Fest. Then, "Devexity" will head off to film festival screenings, according to a report by The Austin Chronicle.
Following Burton as the film's protagonist, named Jean, "Devexity" takes place across several different settings and surfaces an existential response from the watcher. Burton stars alongside fellow Austinites Ali Pentecost, Dominique Pitts and New Yorker Madison Murrah in the partially black-and-white film.
The film was shot over the course of four days in October 2020, which Lidell said was a challenge of "focus" and "trust" to create. With a variety of scenes and intertwining narratives, the film dives into the topic of virtual reality.
A musician in addition to a filmmaker, Lidell previously directed the film "Telekinetic" in 2018. The script for "Devexity" was written by Lidell with Burton in mind for the lead after meeting him during a music video project in 2017—Lidell said Burton helped him shape the characters along the way.
Now that the door has been opened for work between Burton and Lidell, you're likely to see the pair collaborate again—a Black Pumas documentary is being rumored.
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