An Open Letter to C3 Presents in Regards to Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic


Dear C3 Presents:

Thank you for finally responding to my media request for Willie Nelson’s 2015 4th of July Picnic, but frankly I find it disrespectful that you would wait until less than 48 hours before the event to respond, and then do so with a denial, especially when the event has now sold out and I now have no opportunity to attend even if I was willing to purchase tickets. Numerous emails were sent over the last couple of weeks and months to follow up, concerned about this very scenario transpiring, and no effort was put out by your staff to be fair with media members, and now many of us have been left in the lurch for this important event.

It is your show and you can choose who covers it and who doesn’t, and receiving media credentials is always a privilege. Please don’t think that I am unaware of those facts, or am unwilling to pay admittance if I choose to cover an event, as I do very often, despite the paltry money earned in the web publishing business. However, your unprofessionalism with your response to media has made paying to attend an unavailable option for many of us. Nor would simply purchasing tickets gain my photographer access to the photography areas, or give us an equal playing field with other media members for covering the event.

Making this matter even more disrespectful is that this event is happening in my own town, and I am not just talking Austin. I am a Del Valle resident—the specific part of Austin when the event is happening—who lives just two miles from the Austin 360 Amphitheater and the Circuit of the Americas, and this fact was included in my media requests. Whenever music events are held at the facility, I can hear them from my house. Whenever cars are running on the racetrack, I can hear the roars of the engines. The various events at the facility cause traffic in my neighborhood. Commuters from events throw trash out their windows that ends up in my yard. The infrastructure of our community is strained. It sometimes takes 20 minutes simply to take a right turn from my street when events are happening.

There is also an economic windfall for the community, so I don’t want to come across as ungrateful. But this is my neighborhood. My turf. Your coming into my community to hold your event, and it only seems reasonable that a fairly well-respected and widely-read music journalist who has covered numerous Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnics in the past—with absolutely no issues receiving credentials previously—could simply receive a timely denial to his press request so other accommodations could be made.

When the mainstream-centric “Red Fest” promoted by Jeff Foxworthy was held at the same facility in May of 2014, Saving Country Music was able to receive press credentials without a problem. In 2011, when Saving Country Music was statistically 25-times smaller than it is today, there was no issue gaining press access for the 4th of July Picnic at Billy Bob’s in Ft. Worth. In fact it is extremely rare that press access is ever denied to Saving Country Music for events all across the United States, and I regularly receive personal invites to many major festivals . . . except for events in and around the Austin area for some reason. And if press access is denied, I’m more than willing to pay. And sometimes I pay anyway.

Don’t you think that Willie Nelson and his management would want a site called “Saving Country Music” covering and attending his picnic? I know they sure have in the past without any problem. Don’t you think Saving Country Music embodies the spirit of what Willie Nelson is trying to do through this event? I can guarantee you that many of the performing artists and their management teams could vouch for the value of having Saving Country Music in attendance. The simple fact is I could likely reach out to some of the artists and probably obtain tickets and even backstage access (unless these privileges have also been significantly restrained like press access), but it’s not the artists’ job to get media into events like this, nor is it right for media to rely on artist when there is supposed to be an environment of impartiality between media and performers. This isn’t about the ability to obtain tickets or access, this is about C3 Presents actively choosing to exclude Saving Country Music from the press corps of this event.

My media request was first submitted on May 2nd, and was followed up on numerous times. There was nothing Saving Country Music could have done to avoid this situation; only C3 Presents. And this type of situation was the concern that many had when it was announced Willie would be partnering with C3 to put on this historic annual event. The concern was draconian cost-saving measures would be implemented, and corporate bureaucracy would get in the way of the spirit of what Willie’s annual 4th of July celebration is supposed to be all about. We were promised by C3 that once they sold a controlling stake of the company to Live Nation, nothing about the culture would change. But locking out local media who are based within walking distance of the event, and who have a long personal history of covering this event and many of its performers, is all the fears of C3 and Live Nation’s corporate perspectives eroding the spirit of the Willie Nelson 4th of July event coming to fruition.

When Willie Nelson lights into “Whiskey River,” I will be able to hear it, however faintly, from my house. When the fireworks are shot off right before Eric Church plays, I will be able to see and hear them from my front porch. And all of this will only add insult to the injury your mismanagement of the media has caused since I can only be at the event in spirit. I don’t make any money off of Saving Country Music, and never have. And I don’t want cover the 4th of July Picnic to impress my Instagram friends or brag about how I was there. I want to go to Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic to work, and to work hard, and to give exposure to the event, the artists, the venue, and the promoters. My motivation is not money or access to music stars, but sharing musical experiences with my readers because I believe the joy of music is more fulfilling when it is shared. And that is what makes it so disappointing that I won’t be able to attend this year’s event, because I won’t be able to share those experiences with others who don’t live two miles away, and can’t be in attendance.

Please don’t take this as a plea for last minute tickets or media access to the event from you or anyone else. You have put together one of the best lineups for a live event that I have seen in years, and hats off for that. But if you don’t want me there, then I don’t want to be there, and I certainly don’t want to inadvertently promote a company who doesn’t want me to be there.

So you win. Congratulations. I will not be attending the 2015 installment of Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic. And we’ll see how that decision bodes for you in the future.

P.S. You’re welcome for the free promotion.

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