AUSTIN (KXAN) — Less than a year since its grand opening, Austin’s Moody Center is making waves in the music industry as the new venue for the CMT Music Awards, moving from Nashville to the Live Music Capital of the World.
Country music stars Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini made the announcement during Underwood’s concert at the Moody Center on Wednesday evening. The awards show will broadcast from the Moody Center April 2, 2023 on CBS, with streaming opportunities on Paramount+.
City leaders have said the move will tremendously boost the city’s economic revenue and bolster its tourism output.
“We are beyond thrilled to welcome the CMT Music Awards to Moody Center in 2023,” said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Austin, in a statement. “This event will have not only a huge financial impact on Austin and its tourism industry, but it will also showcase two of the top music brands globally, Austin as The Live Music Capital of the World and Country Music Television.”
CMT Awards are coming to Austin, Texas! April 2 on CBS at the Moody Center! pic.twitter.com/huc1Bf3iFC— Ricky (@RickyG_TV) November 3, 2022
Michael Owens, the Moody Center’s vice president of programming, told KXAN Thursday this prospective deal has been years in the making, long before the event venue’s doors opened to the public. With Austin’s roots in country music, he said he wants to pay homage to the city’s music influences and create a fan experience that’ll attract major country artists and their fans.
“We made our pitch and over the course of two to three years, we convinced them that Austin could be a great new destination for their fans and their artists and their production,” he said.
While the awards show itself is a one-night-only event, Owens teased a weeklong music affair next spring for country music lovers leading into the ceremony. He added that could include live music events at venues, bars and restaurants throughout the city from prominent industry musicians and local artists.
The Moody Center isn’t unfamiliar with this practice; it’s something they’ve already built into curating their concert schedules. During Harry Styles’ six-show residency in Austin, the venue collaborated with four local acts who performed pre-show.
Those partnerships happen through a variety of avenues, Owens said. Sometimes the Moody Center receives unsolicited artist submissions they vet; other times, they try to collaborate with local artists who align with the fan demographic of the concert they’re planning for.
“Our focus is local and diverse, and giving opportunities to these artists,” he said. “There’s 15,000, 16,000 people coming into the building — it’s a big opportunity. It’s a big stage for these artists.”
Event staff also curate unique artwork and photo opportunities for concertgoers to tap into to amplify the experience, Owens said. That includes both front and back-of-house features, such as partnering with local food and drink vendors for concert attendees, artists and crew members, as well as decorative details throughout the venue.
“The experience for the fan truly begins when they go to purchase a ticket and ends when they return home after the show,” he said. “So everything in between those touch points is important to us as building managers, and we want to provide a 360-degree experience.”
With a higher capacity music arena in town, Owens said the dynamic has shifted where Austin is now a destiny city for touring artists to visit, in addition to other major Texas cities like Houston, Dallas and El Paso.
While Austin’s skyrocketing population and evolving skyline have reflected this growth, Owens said he still wants to tap into the original roots that made Austin’s music scene what it is: country music.
“This is our opportunity as the Live Music Capital of the World to truly embrace country music. We earned that moniker,” he said. “Austin’s roots are deep in country music, and without country music, we wouldn’t be the Live Music Capital of the World. So this is our opportunity to embrace the country music community and show them what Austin is all about.”