March 12, 2014

Why The Taco Truck Lady Likes Music

By Ashley Mergen

If you’re in the camp that believes entertainment is a luxury, I’m willing to bet the city of Austin, Texas would respectfully “bless your heart” disagree with you. Music and movie festivals like South by Southwest (SXSW) are a boon for just about every aspect of the local economy.

In the few days that I’ve been here, I’ve asked locals whether they’re tired of the hundred-thousand plus festival-goers that plug up the streets and congest local hangouts. Much to my surprise, they all take it in stride and in fact encourage this business-spurring endeavor, which is expected to generate well north of $200 million in revenue for the city this year.

Just think, movies and music are the primary draw that is filling Austin’s restaurants and hotels, keeping its taxis and public transportation occupied, and spilling over massive benefits to local businesses totally unconnected to the entertainment industry, like street cleaning services or your neighborhood taco truck.

And Austin isn’t the exception. In late 2013, the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Bureau of Economic Analysis released numbers showing that creative industries actually account for 3.2% of U.S. GDP, more than tourism. And SXSW proves that even tourism numbers are boosted by creative industries.

But as NPR so aptly put it, the music doesn’t stop in March. Festivals like SXSW provide the backdrop for something much bigger in music and other intellectual property (IP) sectors. Twelve months and 365 days of the year, the state of Texas plays home to 4.6 million high-paying IP-intensive jobs which generate $46 billion in state GDP annually.

In our roundtable discussion with Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) at the Austin Chamber of Commerce yesterday, it was clear that IP plays a central role for the state and local economies, driving jobs, creativity and innovation. And the protection of IP thereof is of equal importance to businesses, with one person giving us the Texas perspective: “Steal my cow, that’s theft. Steal my IP, that’s theft. Property is property.

While SXSW gives us the opportunity to celebrate the creative and innovative minds of today, it’s important to look well beyond this week of festivities and focus on how we can replicate this model throughout the country and recognize that IP rights are at the heart of a vibrant creative and innovative culture and economy.

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