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Published on May 14th, 2019 | by Alan Cross

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Can we please put the whole idea of Woodstock 50 out of its misery? Here’s a list of all the things that went wrong.

The chances of Michael Lang pulling off a 50th-anniversary Woodstock festival lie somewhere between naught and nil. Let us count the ways.

  1. The festival failed to receive the necessary permits to stage a show that would attract enough people to make it profitable. They wanted to invite 150,000 people but were only able to secure permits for 75,000.
  2. The reason the permits weren’t granted was because the County and the local police wanted improvements to the Watkins Glen site, including the building of a pedestrian bridge, construction of new roads, construction of proper drainage and sewage systems, and the acquisition of additional land for parking.
  3. When Japanese investors Dentsu Aegis say that their return on investment was cut in half–they couldn’t make their money back with just 75,000 attendees–they pulled out.
  4. On the way out, Dentsu announced that the festival was canceled. much to the chagrin of Lang. He says they had no right to cancel the event.
  5. Dentsu also scooped $18 million out of the festival’s bank account on their way out. Lang called this “theft.”
  6. Dentsu said that Lang overspent on talent. Instead of adhering to a budget of $25 million, at least $32 million was spent.
  7. What’s more, Dentsu, as Lang’s financial partner, was supposed to be notified/consulted about every act that was being signed for more than $500,000. They say they weren’t.
  8. Lang is suing Dentsu over what they did.
  9. In response, Dentsu says “Woodstock 50 LLC’s and Michael Lang’s misrepresentations, incompetence, and contractual breaches have made it impossible to produce a high-quality event that is safe and secure for concertgoers, artists, and staff. The production company has quit, no permits have been issued, necessary roadwork has not begun, and there is no prospect for sufficient financing.  As much as the parties might wish it otherwise, the festival contemplated by their agreement cannot happen and allowing it to go forward would only put the public at risk.” Whoa.
  10. Lang went hat in hand to other backers like Live Nation and AEG looking for a $20 million cash infusion. They declined.
  11. There’s a lot of confusion over the acts signed to the festival. Lang says the performance contracts are with him. Dentsu says that the contracts lie with them, meaning that they’re no longer legally required to appear.
  12. Just as well since Superfly, Woodstock 50’s production partner, has pulled out. There’s no one to build the stages and run the event.
  13. And really, would you buy tickets to something that’s shaping up to be a fiasco?

The Woodstock 50 website is still alive, but there’s no way to buy tickets as sales have been postponed indefinitely. Meanwhile, hearings into the Dentsu issue continue today.




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About the Author

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.


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