Although he admits to playing a pretty mean rhythm guitar, you won’t find Austin-based real estate mogul Gary Keller rocking a crowd. But while the Keller Williams Realty founder might never be featured on the Stubb’s Bar-B-Q marquee, he’s quietly become a star of the local music scene.
Since 2017, his music advocacy group, the Austin Music Movement, has distributed upwards of $10 million into the city’s music economy, including for nonprofits like the SIMS Foundation, All ATX, and Black Fret. Just as important, he’s helping to preserve pieces of Austin’s musical history. In 2016, when The Saxon Pub was on the verge of closure, Keller not only purchased the property, but provided the capital for long-overdue renovations. “The business of real estate is one I know very well,” he says, “but at the same time, some real estate needs to be respected for its past, for what it represents.”
Keller’s philanthropic streak only intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic, as he donated $50,000 to the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM) to cover artists’ insurance premiums in April. At the same time, such Keller-funded organizations as EQ Austin and the Red River Cultural District advocated for what would ultimately become $5 million in relief courtesy of Austin’s newly established Live Music Venue Preservation Fund. “There isn’t any other scene that’s given Austin its vibe quite like music,” he says. “And make no mistake, live music will return.”