After A Brief Delay, Woodstock 50 Organizers Wire Full Payment to Participating Artists

George Holz
Michael Lang

Organizer Michael Lang says anniversary festival will be a "once in a lifetime event."

A number of artists performing at Woodstock 50 in Watkins Glen, New York have been paid in full after a brief delay and rumors that the anniversary event was in financial trouble.

Sources tell Billboard that payment had gone out a few days later than orginally planned as financial backer Dentsu, a Japanese advertisting congolmerate, worked through attendance issues at the site in upstate New York. Woodstock 50 is expected to draw 100,000 fans for the event produced by Michael Lang, co-founder of the orginal 1969 Woodstock festival and co-owner of Woodstock Ventures, which manages the iconic festival's intellectual property.

Because the event is not being put on by a major promoter like Live Nation or AEG, most major agencies consider it to be riskier than events like Coachella and Bonnaroo, and required Lang and Densu to pay 100 percent of the artist payments upfront before the lineup was announced. While reps for some of the major headliners tell Billboard they were paid in full weeks ago, other artists had not been paid by last Friday, raising red flags with major agencies who expected the lineup to be announced in February and are now seeing it pushed into March.

On Monday (March 4), following reports that the event was having financial issues, representatives for Woodstock confirmed that organizers had wired several million dollars to several major talent agencies representing acts playing Woodstock 50, and one agency boss confirmed to Billboard that, as of Monday evening, their artists had all been paid in full. A source also confirmed to Billboard that festival organizer Superfly, which is handling the logistics of the massive camping festival, had also received full payment.

"There’s always been lots of rumors around Woodstock," Lang said in a statement to Billboard. "We have excellent partners and an incredible talent lineup of over 80 artists which will be announced within the next couple of weeks. We’re preparing a once in a lifetime event.”

With the deposits now paid, the lineup for the festival will likely be announced in the next two weeks, Billboard has learned. Artists such as Dead and Company, Santana, The Killers, Imagine Dragons and Chance the Rapper will be performing at the festival, which is taking place at the Watkins Glen International Speedway, about an hour-and-a-half east of the orginal Woodstock site, where non-profit Bethel Woods is planning its own tribute at its 15,000-person amphitheater with Live Nation.

Despite its well-known name and significant media attention, Woodstock 50 is also seen as a bit of a risk by the industry because of the amount of work and infrastructure needed to prepare the site, which has very few nearby hotels, for a 100,000-person camping festival. The weather in that part of upstate New York is also notoriously fickle in August, with rain and thunderstorms often soaking the area, creating giant mud messes at both the orginal Woodstock and Woodstock 25 in 1994. Five years ago, the Hudson Project Festival had to cancel the final day of its event because of severe thunderstorms.

There's also a larger question of how the event will fare in a crowded festival space, and whether Woodstock will be able to attract a millenial audience interested in spending three days with older music fans. One industry insider told Billboard, "The next step is to put it on sale and then see if anyone cares enough to buys tickets."

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