After two reschedules, it is official that country music legend Willie Nelson will not perform at the Brown County Music Center.

Despite the cancellation, music center officials say the future is still bright for the 2,000-seat venue as it moves forward into 2022 with another sold out show on the books and another nearing sell out status.

The 88-year-old musician was scheduled to perform on April 25. The cancellation was publicly announced on Feb. 9 and spread quickly on social media.

“Understanding the disappointment from fans, the music center frantically worked over the weekend to save the show, but ultimately, was unsuccessful as multiple dates on his tour were canceled,” a statement from the music center reads.


In January 2020 it was announced that Willie Nelson was coming to Brown County on April 28, 2020. The show sold out within 12 minutes of going on sale. The line was long outside of the music center the morning Nelson tickets went on sale as people waited for their chance to buy from the box office in person. Folks at the front of line were sitting in lawn chairs and wrapped in blankets to keep warm from the cold January temperatures and wind. The venue served up complimentary hot chocolate and coffee for those waiting in line.

Nelson’s show was often highlighted in discussions about the early success of the music center.

At a meeting of the venue’s management group following the announcement, discussions centered on how the music center would not have been able to book Nelson if it was not for its success so far. The venue opened in August 2019 with a sold-out Vince Gill show.

But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit causing the show to be rescheduled exactly one year later to April 28, 2021.

At the Feb. 10 Brown County Convention and Visitors Commission meeting BCMC Executive Director Christian Webb announced the cancellation of this year’s show.

The music center has innkeepers tax pledged to cover mortgage payments when there is not enough operating revenues to do so. The CVC manages innkeepers taxes, a 5-percent tax on overnight room rentals in Brown County and contracts with the Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau for marketing. The CVC and other government boards also signed off before the venue was built on pledging the innkeepers tax as a backup revenue source for the music center if there is not enough operating income to cover mortgage payments.

At the CVC meeting last week, Webb said the show was canceled due to “circumstances out of our control.”

The venue received the official cancellation notice on Tuesday, Feb. 8 from Nelson’s team. The statement from his team said the show was canceled “out of the abundance of caution and ongoing concerns related to COVID.”

“We are deeply disappointed with this decision and outcome,” the music center statement reads.

This news came on the heels of the two shows scheduled for the music center in February being postponed due to the winter storm earlier this month: Grammy winner Emmylou Harris and country singer Wynonna Judd and the Big Noise. Judd’s show was rescheduled for May and the venue is looking to September for a possible reschedule date for Harris, Webb said last week.

The 2022 show schedule continues to fill up for the music center despite the changes and cancellations.

Steve Earle and the Dukes will perform there in June and Micky Dolenz Celebrates The Monkees will take center stage in April.

“Shows are still coming. We’re still booking shows. We knew January and February would be light,” Webb said last week during the CVC meeting.

In preparation for the slower winter months, Webb said that the venue staff had been taking the time to do “self-assessments,” like comparing their concession prices or how often they post on social media to other venues in Indiana. The lobby, restroom and theater floors were also buffed this winter to bring the “shine back,” Webb said.

Financial impact

On the financial side of the music center, the staff there is also preparing to have their annual audit done by Blue and Company LLC along with two independent audits based on over $2 million the venue received from the Shuttered Venue Operators grant program last year. SVOG was approved as part of a federal COVID-19 stimulus package.

BCMC received $1.795 million from the SVOG grant program last summer and another round of funding from the SVOG program before the end of last year, bringing the total amount received to $2.737 million. The grant money was budgeted for “the livelihood and success of the music center moving forward,” Webb said last year.

With that money in the bank, the venue’s management group presented a check for $54,000 to the Brown County Commissioners at the end of last year for the music center’s annual property tax payment. The management group also wrote a check to pay off the principle interest on the venue’s mortgage that was waived during the pandemic.

Refunding tickets for the Nelson show will equal $147,015. All Ticketmaster purchases, including purchases from the BCMC box office, have already been instructed to initiate the refund process, Webb said last week.

According to the statement from the music center on the cancellation, the refund process through Ticketmaster could take up to 30 days.

Cash purchases at the venue’s box office will need to be done at the BCMC box office. The box office is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from noon to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays.

Money for refunds will come from deferred income account for the Nelson show.

“As the name states, it is possible income, but it can not be realized until the show plays off,” Webb said.

Each artist who plays at the music center has their own deferred income account line item in the music center’s budget and has a dollar amount associated with it, which is the ticket sales of each show, Webb explained.

Looking ahead, the music center has another sold out show on its books this year when Bobby Weir and the Wolf Brothers featuring the Wolfpack come to town next month. Weir is a founding member of the Grateful Dead and Dead &Company. Bobby Weir and Wolf Bros were formed in 2018 by Weir, Don Was and Jay Lane.

The band performs songs from the Grateful Dead’s catalog along with music from Weir’s solo albums, touring throughout the country. The show sold out almost immediately with over 1,400 tickets being sold in a fan pre-sale alone, Webb said.

Weird Al Yankovic will perform here in May and that show is nearing sell out status, Webb said.

“While we are disappointed to be losing Mr. Nelson, the two shows mentioned here (Weir and Yankovic) have almost same amount of monies sitting in their deferred income account,” Webb said.

Other acts coming to the music center this year include Graham Nash, Gordon Lightfoot and America.

Music returned to the music center in September and with that came some famous visitors to check out shows there. Last November, Kevin Costner and Modern West performed. Country artists Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood came out to see the show. A photo of the couple with Costner at the music center received thousands of views on social media.

Last year, an amendment to the music center’s administration agreement was approved to change how the $1 million capital improvement fund could be spent. Originally that fund was to be set aside for major building repairs and had to be at $1 million before profit from the music center could be split between the county and the Brown County Community Foundation.

The administration agreement states that once the capital improvement fund was at $1 million, remaining profits would be split 25/75 between the county and BCCF with the foundation receiving 75 percent. No money has been given to the county or the foundation yet under that agreement, which is separate from the payments made to the county in lieu of property taxes.

The amendment now allows the music center to also spend the $1 million capital improvement fund on operating losses from show cancellations or the venue having to close its doors again, like what happened when the pandemic first started here.

Tickets are currently on sale for all the above mentioned shows, and more, at and at the venue’s box office.