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Austin City Limits Music Festival’s evolution over its two decades


AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin City Limits Music Festival is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, and during that time it’s brought in more than 1,500 different acts, thousands of workers and millions of attendees to Zilker Park.

According to Setlist.fm, Austin-based country band Asleep at the Wheel is the only act to book an appearance at every year of the music festival. Rock band Spoon, also from Austin, is in a distant second with nine years, and musician Gary Lee Clark Jr. has the next spot with eight years.

The music festival has evolved over two decades. For the first 10 years, the festival was only one weekend long and mostly held in September. The addition of a second weekend began in 2013 and roughly doubled the number of acts performing (77 in 2012 to 151 in 2013). In 2013 the festival became an October affair.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the location: Zilker Park remains the festival’s home.

The festival partnered with the Austin Parks Foundation (APF) 17 years ago, according to APF’s director of marketing and communications. The festival donates millions to APF after each festival, and APF organizes volunteers for the event.

A bundled up crowd listens to the Raconteurs on Weekend 2 of ACL 2019 (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)
A bundled up crowd listens to the Raconteurs on Weekend 2 of ACL 2019 (KXAN Photo/Erin Cargile)

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the 2020 ACL festival to go virtual as a one weekend event with a reduced setlist. Asleep at the Wheel did not perform at the virtual event, nor did they play at the 2021 festival due to a rain delay.

“We are sad to miss Austin City Limits Music Festival (ACL) for the very first year ever due to rain but now…Ray Benson gets to spend the day meeting his first grandchild!” the band posted on Facebook in 2021.

Fans pack in near the Miller Lite stage at Austin City Limits (KXAN photo/Grace Reader)
Fans pack in near the Miller Lite stage at Austin City Limits (KXAN photo/Grace Reader)

In 2018, 2019 and 2021, phone thieves targeted the festival, with Austin Police claiming that “hundreds” of phones were stolen.

The festival’s return to an in-person event in 2021 created an economic boon for the city. According to AngelouEconomics, a group hired by festival producers C3 Presents, said the 2021 festival brought $369.1 million into Austin’s economy. In 2020, the group said the 2019 festival brought in $291 million.

The company has tracked the festival’s economic impact since 2006 and say that the event has brought in more than $2.6 billion since that data tracking began.

A new aspect to the 2022 ACL music festival is that it will be available to stream on Hulu.

“Hulu and Live Nation are both committed to delivering exceptional entertainment to fans, so we are thrilled to be collaborating with them, again, as we expand our offering to include these three legendary festivals,” Hulu President Joe Earley said. “Each event is unique, but all three bring people together for incredible music, artistry, and experiences, which we are fortunate to be able to share with Hulu subscribers.”



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