The drama-ridden 50th anniversary of the Woodstock festival was officially canceled on July 31st, with organizers quoting ‘a series of unforeseen setbacks’

“We are saddened that a series of unforeseen setbacks has made it impossible to put on the festival we imagined with the great lineup we had booked and the social engagement we were anticipating.”  Michael Lang, one of the original producers of the 1969 event

Woodstock festival has always faced its share of drama since it’s first edition that took place in 1969. But the 50th anniversary edition was riddled with its own set of problems. Originally announced as a 3-day event, it was supposed to run from August 16th to 18th. The festival started having its troubles when the its main investor, Dentsu Aegis, announced its cancellation on April 29th.

“Despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, 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 Aegis stated.

Fallout Between Dentsu Aegis and Lang & Co.

Michael Lang tried to protest against the decision claiming that the investors had no right to veto and shut it down. He also announced through a newsletter that the festival will continue as planned. Dentsu on the other hand, had evoked something they called the ‘control option’ that was listed in their contract, where they stated that since Lang & Co. did not manage to live up to their end of the the deal, thus allowing them to have a major say in the decision. Issues with ticket sales and procuring the permits for gathering a group of 150,000 people just added to Lang and Co.’s troubles.

Michale Lang
Michael Lang

The last-minute cancellation of the festival was an excepted after the management also started having troubles with zoning in on a venue. They were rejected at two possible sites in New York, and only last month, the organisers announced that Watkins Glen International had dropped out. The new plans had the festival move to the amphitheatre – Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland. According to the conversation Rolling Stone had with the new venue, they stated that the tickets would potentially be for a one-day pass and would be complementary.

Artist Payday Without Playing?

Artist lineup included headliners like Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons, Jay-Z and more. Many of the headliners and other artists started pulling out due to this shift in venue despite receiving their payment. The venue’s proximity to Washington DC and Baltimore, and the conflicts of exclusivity also added to the reason for artists backing out, mentioned Lang. Amplifi Live, which is the investment division of Dentsu Aegis, stepped in to distribute the funds to the artists.

The Maryland event was aimed at raising money for charity against climate change and raising awareness for the 2020 elections. The statement cancelling Woodstock 50 asked the artists to voluntarily donate 10% of their fees to HeadCount, an NGO that targets voter registration.

“Knowing the cultural significance of this commemorative event, we were eager to help make it happen any way we could. Unfortunately, the festival promoters were unable to fulfill their obligation and Woodstock 50 will no longer be taking place at Merriweather Post Pavilion.” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball (responsible for looking over the Merriweather venue)

Author

Rushaki is a restless explorer at heart, always questioning. Started her journey with honours in Psychology, has worked in events related to music and poetry, in an NGO, managed operations at a start-up, handled hospitality and artists at a bar, and now is on a quest to understand business and content. With a draw to the creative arts, is a vocalist for a rock band - Coffee For Giraffes - and also dabbles in poetry. Wishes to find the right answers and the right road someday to put to rest the never-ending questions in her mind.

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