South by Southwest is just around the corner, which means the tech, music, and film industries will soon descend on Austin, Texas, transforming it into a non-stop circus/conference.
The city of Austin, Texas exists during the rest of the year, too. Its unofficial catchphrase since the year 2000 — “Keep Austin Weird” — which began as a call to support local businesses — sums up the unique brand of civic pride expressed by Austinites throughout the year, and has even appeared on its public transportation tickets (pictured above).
But how weird is Austin, really? True, we can’t think of any other place where residents gather to watch a gigantic bat colony, but what about the music? How does “weird” Austin’s music taste compare to the rest of the US? We decided to find out, because that’s what we do.
Let’s start by comparing the “Spotify top ten” for Austin with those of Texas and the United States on the whole. We looked at the first two weeks of February for this — recent enough, but well before hundreds of thousands of outsiders start showing up for SXSW, so this is just the Austinites.
As you can see, Austin’s favorite music isn’t weird at all. We’ve italicized and enlarged the songs that are unique to Austin, to illustrate how little its favorite music differs from that of Texas and the US in general:
Not so weird now, Austin, are you?
We’re kidding, of course. Things that are popular are popular everywhere, so let’s cut Austin some slack and take a closer look at its specific weirdness.
Part of the “Keep Austin Weird” ethos is about having lots of musicians live there, and by that measure, Austin is pretty weird. For starters, we found that Austin has the 11th highest ratio of recording artists (past and present) to population of any city — and its population is almost always growing, so that figure is even more impressive than it seems.
Let’s delve further into Austin’s weirdness by listening to some some music that’s distinctive to people who call it home all year round. This is music that is big in Austin, and isn’t nearly as popular in the rest of the country. (This is based on this dynamic playlist from everynoise.com.)
As it turns out, Austinites do in fact “support local music,” as recommended by many a T-shirt. The most distinct song to Austin vs. the rest of the world is by Austin local Roger Sellers, whose masterful combination of “folk and subtle electro” (listen) has been ringing through this office ever since it popped up as most distinctive to Austin. Thanks, weird Austin.
From there, our Weird Austin playlist takes us to another local favorite, Bob Schneider, and his country-tinged soft rock “Honeypot” and “40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet).” The #4 most distinctly Austinite song is a banger called “Gates” from Speak, another Austin artist. Then we get four country songs — three from Texan outfit Randy Rogers Band and one from some Oklahomans called Turnpike Troubadors. Coming in at #9 is Houston-based Slim Thug’s “RIP,” and the 10th-most-distinctively-Austinite song takes us back to country, with “My Texas feat. Pat Green” from Josh Abbott Band.
You can listen to the 100 most distinctively Austinite tracks here, for further exploration into what makes Austin weird:
Photo courtesy of Flickr/Liz Henry