UPDATE: A statement from Woodstock 50 organizer Michael Lang says the festival will continue.
Dear Woodstock Friends
It seems in a way that history is repeating itself. In July of 1969 we lost our site in Walkill and with only a month to go we managed to move to Bethel. Woodstock was going to happen no matter what!
This time around, Woodstock’s new hometown, Dix & Watkins Glen, NY and New York State have been really wonderful. I went door to door to talk to the neighbors. Some remembered Summer Jam back in ’73 and were worried about history repeating itself. But they opened their doors to us and we talked it out. Many of those people have reached out over the last 24 hours with messages of hope and encouragement.
The venue, Watkins Glen International, have been totally supportive and professional.
Yesterday, our financial partner, Dentsu-Aegis, made the decision to pull out and informed us that they were cancelling the festival at the same time they let the press release go public.
We have yet to understand why they would try to prevent the festival from happening by seemingly undermining us in this way. It is one thing to decide for oneself that it is best to move on, but it is entirely another thing to try and close the door on us.
Yesterday, I couldn’t help but relive that moment 50 years ago – it was “ déjà vu all over again”!
Supporting the principles of activism and sustainability are too important to be derailed by shortsighted partners.
We continue our work with NYS, Schuyler County and various parties to keep things on track.
Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it.
Woodstock belongs to the people and it always will.
We don’t give up and Woodstock 50 will take place and will be a blast!
Thanks for Listening, Michael
The 50th anniversary of “Three Days of Peace, Love andMusic” is apparently disintegrating into something quite different, with multinationaldigital communications and media company Dentsu Aegis Network announcing it has“canceled” Woodstock 50, which was to take place at Watkins Glen International racetrack in upstate New York Aug. 16-18.
“It’s a dream for agencies to work with iconic brandsand to be associated with meaningful movements,” Dentsu told the Poughkeepsie Journal. “We have a strong history ofproducing experiences that bring people together around common interests andcauses, which is why we chose to be a part of the Woodstock 50th AnniversaryFestival.
“But despite our tremendous investment of time, effortand commitment, we don’t believe the production of the festival can beexecuted as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring thehealth and safety of the artists, partners and attendees. As a result and aftercareful consideration, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner ofWoodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival. As difficult as it is,we believe this is the most prudent decision for all parties involved.”
Michael Lang, one of the co-creators of the originalWoodstock festival in 1969, is the putative “face” of the anniversary show, buthis Woodstock 50 Partners have also been working with Superfly to produce theshow and with Danny Wimmer Presents acting as talent buyer.
Dentsu has reportedly already spent $30 million on artistfees and other costs, according to Billboard, which also reported that Lang& Co. are considering legal options against their now-former financial backer.
Because of the nature of the festival – promoters withlittle experience staging an event the size of Woodstock 50 – agentsinsisted their clients’ artist fees be paid in full in advance, andsources tell Pollstar all were, but noted in some cases payments were madelater than agreed to.
But sources with knowledge of the situation expressedconcern that offers weren’t made to artists including headliners Jay-Z, Dead& Company and Imagine Dragons until late December while ticket onsales thatwere to begin April 22 are still on hold apparently due to permitting issues..
One source told Pollstar that the permit filing was late, asorganizers squabbled over what the capacity should be: 70,000, 100,000 or150,000 on a racetrack site that would include camping. Permits are required tobe approved before tickets can go on sale.
Complicating factors organizers faced included dealingwith logistics of bringing so many people, bands, and equipment into a semi-ruralarea as well as contending with local politics.
And one year to date prior to Woodstock 50’s scheduled openingday, Watkins Glen was flooded and water systems onsite were contaminated,forcing the cancellation of Phish’s Curveball festival, underscoring the factthat mid-August Northeastern U.S. weather can be fickle as well.
Woodstock 50 issued a statement late in the day on today (April 29) saying itwould soldier on somehow.
“We are committed to ensuring that the 50th Anniversary ofWoodstock is marked with a festival deserving of its iconic name and place inAmerican history and culture,” the statement says. “Although our financial partner is withdrawing,we will of course be continuing with the planning of the festival and intend tobring on new partners. We would like toacknowledge the State of New York and Schuyler County for all of their hardwork and support. The bottom line is, there is going to be a Woodstock 50thAnniversary Festival, as there must be, and it’s going to be a blast.”
Those directly connected to the festival declined to be identifiedbecause of the unclear status of the festival and the legal ramifications a cancellation presents.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said one senior executive at amajor concert promotions company when asked about Woodstock 50’s possiblypulling the plug. “I always felt the economics were super ambitious. Whenyou’re a long-standing legitimate promoter, you work on a bit of good faithwith vendors and your contracts, but don’t have to pay up front. And they werepaying some talent $2-3 million each. But with everyone insistingthey got paid up front, it had to put a lot of pressure on the financialoperations.”
“There was a lot of ambition associated with this,” thesame senior exec continued “He needed 150K (people) tobe successful and he didn’t have permits for it. You got to cut down talentbudget or you have to at least dream smaller or mathematically correct.”
The same promoter contrasted Coachella, the industry’s most commercially successful festival, with the planned Woodstock 50 event noting that the Coachella Valley is nearly always sunny and there’s many millions of people within drivingdistance of the site in metropolitan areas that include Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles. He also noted Palm Springs’ superior tourism infrastructure which includes hotels, condos, rooms, grocery stores, restaurants and gas stations. While this part of Upstate New York has little in the way of infrastructure and is likely to have rain on one of the festival’s three days while people are camping.
“Woodstock was a fond memory for a lot of people from acertain generation,” the exec said, “butit was a different day and time. Culturally this generation wouldn’t understandwhat that was about or what this is. We don’t live in theWoodstock Generation anymore. Peace and love and everything – we just don’t’live in that world anymore. It’s a very commercial time. If you want me, youpay me and you better treat me well.”
Another promoter exec was less sanguine about Woodstock 50’spredicament.
“The industry has to quit taking big the checks from peoplewithout the experience to pull something like this off,” the executive toldPollstar. “Why are agents taking these checks? They’re pulling the wool overpeople’s eyes. The artists may get paid, but what about the fans? There is ashame to this.”
A veteran agent, who also declined to go on record, advised artists to not spend their payment because “this whole situation may end up going in court.”
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