Woodstock 50 - is it happening or not? The fate of the festival has been thrown into question over the past few days, after financial partner Dentsu Aegis Network released a statement announcing its supposed cancellation. "Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment," they wrote, "we don’t believe the production of the festival can be executed as an event worthy of the Woodstock Brand name while also ensuring the health and safety of the artists, partners and attendees." Dentsu's investment arm, Amplifi Live, also spoke to the media, calling necessary infrastructure like water sources and sanitation "far behind schedule."
Festival organizers, including original Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang, immediately denied the cancellation, insisting that Dentsu "do not have the right to unilaterally cancel the festival." Lang doubled-down in a new statement yesterday where he insisted, "we don’t give up and Woodstock 50 will take place and will be a blast!" Schuyler County, NY officials also expressed their "disappointment" over the cancellation, saying it would represent "a huge economic loss for the county."
However, as Billbaord reports, even if Lang manages to save the festival, the artists booked may not play. Several booking agents confirmed to Billboard that their artists were contracted with Dentsu and Amplifi Live to perform, and when Dentsu announced the festival's cancellation, they were released from those contracts.
Billboard also points out that Lang and other festival organizers may not be able to use the name Woodstock 50 for any event they are able to cobble together following Dentsu's cancellation:
Lang and his partners co-own the Woodstock name through the Woodstock Ventures holding company, which they then leased to a separate holding company called Woodstock 50 LLC, which was created Aug. 31, 2018 according to records from the NYS Department of State. It's unclear who controls Woodstock 50 although Billboard has confirmed that hotelier Greg Peck with Crescent Hotel is one of the board members of Woodstock 50 and that some investors in the group are represented by Beverly Hills attorney Alex Weingarten.
While the details of Woodstock Venture's licensing agreement for the name Woodstock 50 are unknown, it's unlikely that Lang can use the name Woodstock 50 for the event he is trying to create out of the ashes of his original vision. In fact it appears he's already stopped using the Woodstock 50 name — he signed off the letter as Woodstock Ventures.
Lang has also given a new interview with Variety where he promises, once again, "we're gonna get this done." "We are in discussion with a couple of parties to replace Dentsu’s position," he tells Variety, "and hopefully will be able to get [tickets] on sale in the next couple of weeks." Those parties won't be Live Nation or AEG, who organizers allegedly sought $20 million in funding from, only to be turned down. Lang denies this to Variety, saying it was "not us, and Dentsu says not them, so I think that was just rumor."
Speaking about Dentsu, Lang says, "they’re really not familiar with our business and the intricacies and subtleties of it, and I think they’re probably very concerned with their public image, and when there’s controversy maybe … it’s just speculation, which I hate to do, but maybe it had to do with that. The Japanese have a lot of pride and are careful with their image, and this is the music business — it can be a little bit muddy."
He blames the "relationship with Dentsu" for the lateness of finalizing a permit for the festival, saying, "Things were late getting started in general, but it took a long time to get certain contracts in place that would have moved all of those processes along, and so it had to be rushed."
Read Variety's full interview with Lang here.
UPDATE: Rolling Stone reports that Woodstock 50 producers Superfly, who are also behind Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, have ended their involvement with the festival. Lang had told Vulture that the festival was "transitioning to another production entity," and that they're "just kind of finishing up discussions this week," so the news likely doesn't come as a surprise to him, but a source Rolling Stone spoke with called it "catastrophic."