As a neighbor to the live music capital of the world, the live music scene in San Marcos has been welcoming musicians from varying genres and backgrounds for years. In fact, it has been designated as a music-friendly city by Gov. Greg Abbott.
Prior to 2020, an ear-splitting guitar riff or stomach-fluttering bass thump could be heard by anyone who stepped out onto the square on a Saturday night in San Marcos. The bustling bars and venues in the city would welcome patrons to pack in for a night of live music from local artists.
In March of 2020, the coronavirus hit the United States.
Local businesses closed up shop, Texas State University classes moved to online delivery and everyone settled in for a quarantine with no end in sight. With no place to perform and no fans to play for, local artists seemed to be out of luck for the foreseeable future.
Closures hit musicians and venues hard. A few local businesses in San Marcos that used to host live shows closed down permanently. Artists who rely purely on shows to cover part or all of their income struggled to make ends meet, especially local musicians that may not have their music on streaming services as an additional form of income.
According to the National Library of Medicine, total monthly consumer spending on music, such as live music events and physical ticket sales, has decreased by more than 45% over the course of the pandemic.
Despite the effects the pandemic brought to San Marcos, local artists found other ways to continue bringing music to the community.
“I remember driving past a record shop on Aquarena Springs in the early days of the pandemic and seeing a band playing outside with speakers and everything,” Texas State University alumni Justin Vineyard said. “It was very cool. They did these drive-by concerts a few times during the pandemic before the shop closed down.”
Since 2020, many music venues have started opening their doors for live shows again. Aiden Potter, a member of local band Window Shop, says the pandemic was a great time for the band to reflect and find their sound before playing for a crowd.
“We rehearsed and played for about nine months before anybody saw us which helped us a lot.” Potter said. “Once shows kind of started to happen again, we had a mostly finished product, we were really solid and had kind of developed a pretty decent chemistry with each other at that point.”
Regularly-scheduled shows seem to be returning to the San Marcos music scene slowly but surely. With the introduction of coronavirus vaccines and boosters coupled with a general decrease in cases, things might even be starting to feel normal for some students.
Although there are live music events to attend again, and fans to actually pack into a sweaty room to watch them, the pandemic is still of great concern, and some of its earlier effects seem like they’re here to stay.
According to KTSW executive Mackenzie Akin, the atmosphere at live shows feels completely different at this point in the pandemic.
“The experience of going to live shows in this sort of…’post-pandemic’ world seems like it has completely changed in more ways than one. It seems like people are almost afraid to touch eachother or get rowdy and crazy like they used to,” Akin said. “Security measures in general also seem like they’ve changed a lot. I feel like the lines are longer and it’s just a lot harder to physically get into venues to see shows.”
Life as it was before the pandemic may never be the same, but many industries seem to be making a steady recovery and looking forward to the future.
According to Music Business Worldwide, live music numbers for 2022 have nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels. In February, 36% of United States live music consumers said they planned to attend a concert this year. This is nearly double the previous year, when only 15% of consumers attended at least one concert.
To get a feel for house shows, which have been a staple of the live music scene in San Marcos for local artists, I attended a show at Earle’s Basement, a house of students that have opened their doors to local artists.
I also sat down with Mackenzie Akin to chat about the local music scene in San Marcos and how it has changed in a post- pandemic world.