AUSTIN (KXAN) — Your 2021 Austin City Limits Music Festival ticket not only gets you in to see Miley Cyrus, but it helps keep the wheels turning on the longest-running music program on television to date. How? The answer requires us to dip into a bit of ACL history.
The relationship between what is now named C3 Presents, the company that hosts ACL Music Festival, and Austin PBS, which owns “Austin City Limits” the television show, dates back two decades. The concert promotion company was looking to tap into ACL’s well-established brand, ya know, the power of Willie Nelson and all. They walked away with a licensing agreement that allowed them the rights to the name Austin City Limits.
That license means not only do the two go by the same name, but the festival is required to pay Austin PBS a licensing fee every year to keep using it.
“All the things that we’re doing in the community, not only from a programming standpoint, but also our education outreach and other community outreach, that is funded in part by the contribution from the ACL Festival,” Tom Gimbel, general manager for ACL the television show, said.
Though the festival helps the show’s bottom line tremendously, donations, funding from people who are members of Austin PBS and people who donate as a part of Friends of Austin City Limits are also huge contributors. The show also gets a small percentage of its money from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, Gimbel said.
Recovering from COVID-19
The Austin City Limits Music Festival was nixed in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. It meant vendors wouldn’t be headed out to Zilker Park, artists had to put their sets on hold and people with tickets had to make new plans.
As you can imagine, that also meant no licensing agreement and no money from the festival. Assuming nothing drastic happens over the next few days, that funding will be back in the show’s budget this year.
“When the festival didn’t happen, it certainly was a financial hit to Austin PBS. Again the licensing fee is significant. It does impact our bottom line,” Gimbel said. “So to see the festival happening this year and that’s it’s healthy and it’s two weekends and it’s sold out — that’s great for all of us.”
Knowledge is power… and funding
“There’s a funding benefit and the licensing fee that C3 pays to Austin PBS is significant and meaningful, but it goes way beyond a financial contribution,” Gimbel said.
Aside from writing a check every year to license the name, the festival also brings huge amounts of awareness to the show, an awareness that sells tickets and helps foster further donations and partnerships.
“Short of the guy who has a statue in front of this venue, Willie Nelson, I don’t think there’s any person or entity that has done more to spread the awareness of Austin City Limits than the Austin City Limits Music Festival and C3 Presents,” Gimbel said.