“I didn’t want my tombstone to say, ‘This dude was an average accountant, and then he died.’”
Mark Austin of The Convoy Group doesn’t do interviews. Most music managers don’t. They’re too busy shining the spotlight on other people to worry too much about their personal brand.
There’s not a lot of time to shine that light on yourself when you live, breathe and hustle Houston music every day the way Austin does. From managing local bands such as The Suffers and The Tontons to producing and promoting local music events to booking bands at venues like MKT Bar and The Nightingale Room, Austin is doing his part to try to take the Houston music scene, as varied and diverse as it is, to the next level.
“We get every accolade for food and business and places to live and travel. People are paying attention. Now if we could just turn a little of the spotlight toward the fact there’s a bunch of musicians here,” Austin says.
Ask someone in another city about Houston music, and nine times out of ten, they’ll mention Beyoncé, ZZ Top or chopped and screwed hip-hop. That’s fair, but it’s also a reflection of how the music scene of the fourth-largest city in the country, one that’s full of amazing acts in many different genres, is still being slept on.
“I really just think we live somewhere that is an untapped resource. It’s a goldmine,” Austin explains.
His enthusiasm for Houston music is infectious. He’s passionate in the way you wish more people would be when it comes to local music. Talk with him long enough, and you’ll want to go out and start running your own shows. He likely wouldn’t complain if you did.
“I would love to be the guy that could help everyone all the time. I wish there were ten of me for that reason,” he says.
Still, the one Mark Austin that exists does get a lot done, including and beyond his “official” workload. He helps dozens of bands get gigs every month. He listens to demos that come his way for bands he might be able to help develop. He takes the meetings with the companies looking to find out more about Houston music.
He’s also big on sharing with artists and managers what he’s learned over the past few years. While some may see the music business as a dog-eat-dog industry, Austin has a more “a rising tide lifts all boats” mentality.
“New managers working with bands that will call me up and say, ‘Will you have coffee with me?’ and I’ll say, ‘Absolutely. Let’s talk.’ I’ve got no secrets to hide,” he says.
“There’s definitely a need for more guys like me,” he continues. “I want to be that guy that’s like, ‘Yo, bring me everything. I will find a home for everybody.’
“But I know that would kill me.”
A city that has a healthy music scene, one with record labels and management companies and artists’ rights organizations, isn’t good just for the musicians living in it, it’s good for the fans, too. More musicians being able to work and survive as musicians means more music to listen to. More venues means more rooms for bands to play in and more shows to see. More infrastructure to help bands succeed keeps the scene alive and healthy.
But if any of that is going to happen, the artists in the Houston scene are going to have to want it and be willing to work for it, instead of waiting for it to come to them.
“The bands have to have the aspirations first,” he explains. “The thing with artists is that I help them stop being reactive. We start getting proactive. We create the opportunities we get.”
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Once you’ve met him, Mark Austin is a hard guy to miss. He’s got a magnificent beard, and when you look at him, you wonder how he ever worked as an accountant, rocking a suit and tie to work every day. He looks so at home at music events around town, many of which he’s helped put together.
But the scene still has a ways to go, and Austin knows there’s more work to be done to make the Houston scene a music powerhouse.
“I want to see everyone succeed, I really do,” he says. “The more bands that sell out some venue here, the more bands that get to go on tour or get on the ACL lineup, the better.”
“I really do want to see us succeed as a city. And then if that happens, I want to see us succeed as a state. And then as a nation. I gotta start somewhere. I just happen to live in the fourth-largest city, and I happen to really fucking love music so much.”