Austin City Limits Music Festival: The Marketing Behind it All

Whether they bought a ticket or not, UT students, residents of Austin, and music fans across the nation anticipate one of the premier music festivals of the year known as Austin City Limits (ACL.) In this two weekend event, a lineup of several famous artists perform at our very own Zilker Park. Along with these talented singers, ACL also brings in a multitude of festival goers, pumping in an estimated revenue of about $1.5 million into the Austin economy since 2006. As ACL Fest 2019 approaches, let’s delve into the marketing and financial work behind what makes this event a growing success each year.


2019 Festival Partners:

ACL has partnered with 38 different companies for this year’s festival, including American Express, Honda, T-Mobile and VRBO. 


How ACL Markets Itself:

While we have to wait until fall for this highly anticipated festival, the talk about ACL begins several months in advance. As spring approaches, the marketers behind this event excite people about the coming lineup through social media posts, and partnering with different press and media companies. Some of these include, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Kiss FM and others that help reach a large audience. Active on platforms like Twitter and Instagram, the festival shares information on special prices for tickets and other opportunities in order to drive sales.

Some strategies for this year include the VIP and Platinum experience tickets as well as temporary promotions; these include ticket giveaways, meet and greets with performing artists, and the student day discount tickets. In addition, other items are sold alongside tickets such as apparel, posters, keychains, and other package deals. To create a better family experience, ACL holds “Austin Kiddie Limits” where kids under the age of 10 get in free with their parents. It also provides access to necessities such as baby changing stations, stroller lanes, and a separate family friendly entrance. Through all these different marketing techniques, ACL reaches a wide audience across multiple platforms.


Increasing Exposure for Other Companies:

 Not only does ACL generate an enormous profit through festival operations, it also creates business for several other companies and areas of Austin’s economy. Sponsors including many nonprofit and for profit companies gain tremendous exposure as they advertise themselves to festival goers. For example, in 2018, American Express sponsored the largest stage at ACL and set up a two story structure in Zilker Park. According to Lindsey Ulrey, American Express’s director of global experiential marketing, their goal was to make people associate the company’s brand with providing a better time at ACL. It is also a great opportunity to increase visibility for small companies or startups by setting up tent space to promote new products or pass out giveaways. And of course, companies can increase their reach online through sharing hashtags or other social media connections to ACL. Revenue especially skyrockets for food and beverage operators, hotels, and the real estate industry in Austin due to all the attendee expenditures.


ACL Eats, Art Market, & Late Night Shows:

While the music festival itself is extremely popular, many people don’t know about the additional events that are held throughout these two weekends. At ACL Eats food court, premier Austin restaurants are showcased. It’s a great way for smaller and new restaurants to reach an audience without spending too much money on advertising and other incentives. At the Art Market, local artists are invited to set up shop and display their artwork at the festival. Many are successful at selling their pieces to festival attendees or at least increasing their presence in the art community. And in addition to three day and one day tickets for each weekend, ACL also sells tickets for late night shows. These are advertised as providing access to the ultimate afterparties. 


Individual Profit:

Now as an individual, there’s also an easy way to make a profit for yourself by reselling tickets. For the 2019 lineup, weekend one was in high demand and sold out quickly with one day general admission tickets going for around $105 and three day tickets at around $260. However, if you sell those tickets one or two months before the event, they are valued at almost twice the original cost. Many people were willing to spend the extra money to buy these high demand tickets. One of the best ways to market them is to post about it on social media platforms. If you are a UT Student, selling them in GroupMe chats and on your UT class Facebook group is a great strategy. It’s an easy way to reach ACL’s target audience right here on campus. Be cautious to not wait too long because as it gets closer to the event, many more people will try to sell their tickets and therefore drive the price down.


In Conclusion…

Through the employment of various marketing tactics to help draw attention to this annual event, Austin City Limits Music Festival continues to grow in its success each year. Austin based companies and individuals are also able to take advantage of the large scale tourism and expenditures that the festival brings in to promote their brand and products. Mayor of Austin, Steve Adler, summed up the immense impact of ACL on the city.

“There’s been no better brand for the city of Austin than being the ‘Live Music Capital of the World,” Adler said. “Regardless of if you attended ACL this past year or not, everyone in the city of Austin won.”


By: Sanjana Reddy


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