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Austin City Council hopes to provide support to Blues on the Green

People sit on the grass at a park with dogs and blankets with a downtown skyline in the background.
Gabriel C. Pérez
KUT News
The Austin City Council wants to find ways to support the summer concert series, Blues on the Green, and other live entertainment in the city.

The Austin City Council is looking at how it can provide more support to Blues on the Green, the city’s beloved summer concert series, and other low-cost and free music and art events.

On Thursday, the council passed a resolution that tasks city staff with finding ways to sustain these types of events, including the option to co-sponsor events and allow the sale of alcohol where appropriate.

The move comes after Austin City Limits Radio announced in January that after more than 30 years, it would not host Blues on the Green in 2024. The station said it had been dealing with rising costs which have become more challenging as the event has grown.

Council Member Natasha Harper-Madison, who led this initiative, grew up going to events like Blues on the Green. She said events like these are part of the Austin experience and it's up to the city to preserve them.

“It's crucial now more than ever to really maintain Austin's cultural identity,” Harper-Madison said. “Diverse groups of Austinites gathering and socializing, that's important, it has intrinsic value.”

Harper-Madison said the hope is for the city to become a co-sponsor for Blues on the Green and look at other ways to ease burdens for event organizers and musicians, such as fee waivers and expanding alcohol sales.

Council Member Chito Vela said alcohol sales could help generate another revenue stream for events. Some council members expressed concerns about how that would impact public safety.

Harper-Madison felt expanding alcohol sales at these kinds of events requires a closer, comprehensive approach.

"These [events] are kid-friendly spaces," Harper-Madison said. "And until we take the opportunity to comprehensively address this, I'm going to oppose any measure that introduces alcohol sales at this time."

Parks and Recreation Director Kimberly McNeeley said when the city events allow alcohol sales it is typically in a fenced-in area, which does come with additional costs and security.

Several musicians, venue owners and event organizers showed strong support for the potential changes and city sponsorship.

Jeff Miller, owner and director of Event Production Services, produces Blues on the Green. He said inflation has skyrocketed, including the price of labor, transporting materials and gear.

“We have limited budgets, and, on top of that, there are city fees, permitting, special events police, and all the requirements that are made for this type of thing," Miller said. "And so the client has had a hard time matching the sponsorships to the budget.”

Miller said the changes made by the council could go a long way for free and low-cost ticket events, like Blues on the Green, which operate on thin margins but bring people together.

“Without the help of the city and the help of these sponsors, vendors, and everyone involved, the event’s in jeopardy of going away forever,” Miller said. “And to me that also signals that these other events just won’t exist.”

He said that would be a loss for Austin residents, some of whom might not have the means to go to events with hefty ticket prices. Musicians would also lose out on money and exposure to new audiences, Miller said. The impact would continue to trickle down to the people who help put on the shows and depend on the money in the summer when the festival season is slow, and the businesses that benefit from the influx of visitors on show days.

“The amount of money that goes back into the music community is tangible,” Miller said.

Harper-Madison said city staff have until the end of February to find some solutions, including getting input from community members.

As for what’s next for Blues on the Green, Bruce Walden, the general manager for ACL Radio, said that is still being determined.

“As this works its way through the council process, we’re continuing to talk to sponsors, partners, city leaders and the Austin Parks Department to find more paths forward for Blues on the Green,” Walden said. “We remain hopeful.”

Luz Moreno-Lozano is the Austin City Hall reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on X @LuzMorenoLozano.
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