An event organizer planning an event with outdoor amplified sound should take care to observe the required allowances set forth in the City of Austin Municipal Ordinance 9-2 and 4-20. These ordinances identify required cutoff times and decibel limits given the location of the event. All amplified sound at an outdoor special event venue requires approval by ACE.

An outdoor special event venue is a venue that is not fully enclosed by permanent, solid walls, and roof. This includes buildings where amplified sound is directed outside through open roll up garage doors, removable window panels, or other openings in a building.

ACE may approve the use of sound equipment for no more than 4 consecutive days or non-consecutive days during a 30-day period. *The 30-day period begins the day after a previous approval expires.

A special event venue can be approved for the use sound equipment at a special event for up to 19 days per calendar year.

Information Required for Outdoor Amplified Sound Review

  • Size and location of stages and sound equipment, and orientation of sound 

  • Sound system details including the total number and size of all speakers and monitors (including the brand and model when available)

  • Dates and times for all amplified including performances and sound checks

  • Name or talent category for artists performing at the event

  • If the amplified sound is not a live performance, description of sound (streamed music, film screening, tv broadcast, speeches, etc.)
     

ACE reviews applications based on the history and character of the area where the special event venue is located and its potential impacts to the surrounding community. Some of the criteria used to evaluate outdoor amplified sound include:

  • Suitability of the site for outdoor amplified sound based on topography and proximity to residential, commercial, and civic uses

  • Size and capacity of the site or venue covered by the application

  • Sound-mitigating design features proposed in the application, including building design, stage construction and orientation, buffering, size, location, and orientation of speakers

  • Potential for additional sound mitigation

  • History of noise complaints and violations at the site
     

Special Event Venues near Residential Properties

A higher level of review and investigation will take place for outdoor special event venues within 600 ft. of residential properties to determine its suitability for outdoor amplified sound, and potential impacts to the surrounding community. Heightened restrictions on scale and intensity of sound equipment, decibel limits, and hours of operation may apply to special event venues near residential uses.

If the application does not meet guidelines, ACE staff will work with the applicant to search for a workable solution for the event that will stay within the legal parameters of the ordinance. If a solution cannot be agreed upon to maintain the integrity of the ordinance, the event may be denied.  
 

If ACE approves the use of outdoor amplified sound, a sound impact plan will be issued documenting approval.
 


Sound Impact Plan

Sound Impact Plans are customized documents of the allowances and restrictions related to the use of amplified sound at the special event and include:

  • Sound system details

  • Stage layout and sound orientation

  • Prescribed decibel limits

  • Operating hours for sound equipment

  • Sound-mitigating design features

  • Use of decibel meters or sentinels on site

  • Contact information for the individual responsible for operating the sound equipment during the special event

  • Any other elements required by ACE

Event Organizer’s Responsibilities for Operating in Accordance with the Sound Impact Plan

If ACE approves the use of sound equipment during a special event, the following applies: 

  • A person may not operate sound equipment to cause sound that exceeds the decibel limit established by ACE in the applicable sound impact plan

  • An event organizer must operate the sound equipment in accordance with the sound impact plan

  • An event organizer must require an individual to be present and responsible for operating sound equipment during the operating hours for the special event.