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A look at ACL Fest and Texas live music in the COVID era

Crowds of people walk around Zilker Park during the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 9, 2022.
Renee Dominguez
Crowds of people walk around Zilker Park during the Austin City Limits Music Festival on Oct. 9, 2022.

In 2020, live events across the world came to a halt as COVID began to spread. More than two years later, music festivals have resumed – but the industry has also changed.

Pent-up demand, economic uncertainty and the still-looming considerations of the pandemic have made the live music industry harder to navigate.

Deidre Gott is an assistant program director with KUTX 98.9 in Austin. She’s attending the Austin City Limits Music Festival, which just completed its first weekend and will resume for weekend two on Friday, and joined the Texas Standard to talk about the state of live music in Texas.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Let’s talk a little bit about ACL here. You’re going to be attending; who are you excited to see?

Deidre Gott: Yes. We set up backstage and do all three days, both weekends, of artist interviews and some performances, too. I’m really excited about Kacey Musgraves again; I love her. Lil Nas X I’m excited about. Jazmine Sullivan – I’m really excited about her.

» FROM KUTX: 26 artists putting the Austin in the Austin City Limits music fest

Let’s talk about the touring business. I know you’re in contact with a lot of these folks in the industry for your work with KUTX. Are they still facing complications from the coronavirus?

Oh, absolutely. It’s not just a Texas thing. It’s tours all over, for different reasons, right? Because now inflation is here; gas prices are up also. Because people haven’t been able to tour for two years, now they’re all ready to get back out on the road. This is the way that they make their money now is through touring and merchandise. So everybody’s trying to book a tour at the same time, which means like typical tours that play at certain venues just don’t have the availability. They’re having a harder time booking actual tours.

You pointed out that this is how musicians make their money nowadays; it’s not about selling records or any of the releases that we hear so much about. In Austin, a place that prides itself as a center for live music, do you sense that the city has kind of changed substantially? I mean, where are the musicians? What about the clubs? Have they been able to survive the pandemic? Where do we stand? 

Yeah, the tours and the shows are still being booked. I think that as fans, now that they’re getting back out there, there’s a little sticker shock. So they’re being a little more hesitant to buy tickets in advance because it might cancel or the ticket prices are a little bit more expensive. So pre-sale tickets aren’t doing as well because there’s just so much going on and people are being a little bit more conservative with their money as well.

And what about the musicians? Can they afford to live in a place like Austin?

I think that’s the biggest debate that’s going on with Austin musicians: if they can afford to live. But that’s across the board, not just Austin.

It’s just hard to find affordable housing right now. Are you optimistic about the future of live music in Texas?

Always. I mean, it’s my job. I have to be. Music is always going to resonate with people, and people are always going to want that. So I’m going to stay positive about it. Absolutely.

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