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Margin Walker, Austin's premier indie music promoter, closes due to pandemic

Margin Walker founder Graham Williams, seen here on the grounds of Sound on Sound Festival in 2016, said Monday that the indie concert promotion company is calling it quits.

With the live music industry reeling and tours and large events indefinitely on hold, beloved Austin-based indie music promotion company Margin Walker Presents has decided to shutter. 

"For most of us in 'the biz,' March marked the beginning of the close of live entertainment, which continues now and will continue for a long time to come. The uncertainty and lack of resources have hammered down on those working in this world from venues to artists to festivals promoters and beyond," a notice posted to the company's Instagram account on Monday said.

The post said that despite "strategic changes in the business, painful staff cuts and taking loans and grants," the company was not "immune" to the pandemic-related downturn. 

"It breaks our hearts to announce that this wild ride has come to an end," the post said, noting that Margin Walker will be closing as of this week. 

Margin Walker, helmed by longtime Austin promoter Graham Williams, rose from the ashes of Transmission Entertainment, the popular indie promotion company that thrilled Austin audiences with 10 years of Fun Fun Fun Fest. Williams left Transmission to launch the company, named after a song by iconic post-hardcore act Fugazi, in 2016. Starting off with a crew of eight employees, the company billed itself as a "truly independent, boutique promotions, marketing and production agency."

Over the years, Margin Walker, which specialized in presenting underground and breakthrough artists, grew into a powerful enterprise.

The year it launched, the company hosted Sound on Sound Festival, a whimsical musical experience at Sherwood Forest Faire, the Renaissance Festival grounds in the nearby town of McDade. When the festival folded the following year after an investor pulled out a month before the event was set to open, it was a bellwether for the downfall of independent music festivals in the Austin area.

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Neon Indian plays Margin Walker's Eso Es! Tour at Mohawk last year.

While based in Austin, the company broadened its reach by routing tours through Texas. According to the company's farewell post, in less than five years, it booked more than 3,500 shows in Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.  

In June, as Austin stared down its quietest summer music season in recent history, Williams talked about the challenges of bringing touring shows to Texas during a pandemic.  

“You don't just decide you want to be on tour. It takes months to plan it out, and you announce three or four months out sometimes, and so if you can't really guess what's going to be happening a few months from now, it's pretty tough,” he told the American-Statesman. 

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At the time, Williams said most tours that had been rerouted for late 2020 were looking at 2021 dates. 

The company experimented with selling "show bonds," which were essentially gift cards for future shows, and partnered with artists and businesses on some livestream events. 

Graham Williams' company Transmission Entertainment was instrumental in introducing Big Freedia to Austin at Fun Fun Fun Fest. Williams continued to book the New Orleans bounce queen many times through the years, including for this set at Sound on Sound Fest.

Ultimately, it was not enough to save the company. "We hoped we could weather this unprecedented storm, but sadly we couldn't," the Instagram post about the closure said.

The company advised fans to email venues directly for additional information on specific shows and directed queries about tickets for any 2021 shows or rebooked 2020 shows to Eventbrite