Hiring Trump’s attorney is not exactly the expression of “peace, love and music” that most would expect from the founder of Woodstock, but with his legacy and anniversary event on the line, Michael Lang is fighting back against detractors who say Woodstock 50 is doomed.
“Dave, my grip is right here and it’s fine,” he wrote in an email to Billboard shortly after the email newsletter The Real reported “Lang is Losing His Grip” in the subjectline of their newsletter. He also hired attorney Marc Kasowitz, a well-known trial lawyer and partner of the New York-based law firm Kasowitz Benson Torres who previously served as personal outside attorney for President Donald Trump and briefly represented him in the Russia probe led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“A story just ran in Billboard saying that the Woodstock 50 artists can terminate their contracts because the agreements were with Dentsu and the festival is canceled,” Kasowitz wrote in an email to Lang’s publicist at Rogers and Cowan who then forwarded it to Billboard as part of an inquiry in our reporting. “Both those statements are untrue. The artists’ agreements are with Woodstock 50 LLC and the festival has not been canceled and preparations are continuing.”
But that’s not right either. Agents with two talent agencies representing major headliners at the anniversary festival reinterated to Billboard this afternoon that Dentsu Aegis’ decision to pull out of the festival released artists from the contract they signed with Dentsu’s holding company Amplifi Live, saying there is no chance their artists will perform now that the financial backer of the festival has left.
“First, no one from Lang’s office or Woodstock 50 has called us to let us know what is going on. Second, our contract was with Amplifi Live, not with Woodstock 50,” said one agent representing a number of headliners on the bill.
Another major talent agency said their contract was made directly with Dentsu and said that Woodstock 50’s lack of permits to hold the festival, coupled with the resignation of show producer Superfly, demonstrates that Lang would be unable to deliver the concerts, which meant a breach of the contract.
Because artists are in high demand, most festival contracts give far more control to artists than festival promoters and often require new promoters to pay 100% of the guarantee up front and agree that artist keep all deposits if the event is cancelled by the promoter. Part of that is because artists have limited opportunities to make money — if one date gets cancelled it’s hard to find a makeup date on short notice.
But also it’s an issue of supply and demand, and with demand coming from festivals all over the world, artist have more leeway to pick and choose where they want to play and set terms that heavily favor creators.
It’s likely that Lang already knows this and could be using the booking issue to set up a legal fight with Dentsu Aegis down the road, but even that strategy is frought with peril. Going up against the Japanese giant could expose him to a costly countersuit. If a judge or jury finds him and his investors at Woodstock 50 — including hotel operator Greg Peck — liable for the $30 million in losses Dentsu Aegis suffered, a judge could force the sale or transfer Lang’s assets to the advertising conglomerate, including his rights to the Woodstock name.
That would definitely not be in line with the spirit of the concert that forever changed rock and roll ushered in the cultural revolution. Lang better hope Trump doesn’t need his attorney back because Kasowitz certainly has his hands full with this one.