Don Pitts, the longtime head of Austin’s music and entertainment division, an important department for a city dubbed the “Live Music Capital of the World,” has resigned effective immediately. Pitts had been placed on administrative leave since Jan. 13 for undisclosed reasons, though he told the Austin Statesman that he “didn’t follow exact city protocol on an incident that I handled.”
In a resignation letter to Alex Lopez, deputy director of the city’s Economic Development Department, Pitts struck a diplomatic tone and cited a desire to work outside of a city hall bureaucracy going forward. “It is time for me to return to my core passion of creating vibrant music cities and ensuring that Austin is the most forward-thinking music city,” he wrote. “As a music industry person, I realize I work differently. I understand why protocol is important in the life of a city bureaucracy and I realize it is time for me to not work within a bureaucracy any longer. I can serve as an outside resource.”
Pitts had been program manager of the music division — branded as ATX Music — since its creation in 2010. The department describes itself as an “economic development accelerator and centralized resource center for Austin’s music industry, and an active community partner for Austin’s citizens, community groups, and neighborhoods.”
Its core initiatives include developing Austin’s music industry, executing various community programs and acting as an ombudsman for live venues needing assistance with the permit process. In his letter, Pitts cited another role of the department — playing referee in sound/noise disputes with neighbors in the fast-growing city — as becoming too heavy a focus.
“The original vision of the Division was to focus on the economic development of the music industry and community,” he wrote. “However, Austin’s growth produced an ever expanding focus around sound complaints, permitting, and various ordinances, which were quickly prioritized to be the Division’s focus.” (Read Pitts’ full letter here.)
Austin’s biggest music-related event, South By Southwest, begins in less than a month (March 10). Aside from assisting with event permits and other duties related to the confab, the ATX Music Office also produces and promotes an official music showcase that exclusively features artists based in Austin. It’s unclear whether Pitts’ departure will impact this year’s event; a request for comment from the spokeswoman for the Economic Development Department was not immediately returned.