If Woodstock 50 organizers have a new venue and a potential producer waiting in the wings, they haven’t told the 80 artists listed on the Woodstock 50 lineup.
Managers, agents and publicists for the bands playing the Aug 14-16 anniversary are telling Billboard that co-founder Michael Lang and partner Greg Peck have not reached out with any updates on a potential new site for the festival at the Vernon Downs racetrack in Upstate New York, about two hours east of the original site at Watkins Glen.
Many of the artist contracts were made directly with Dentsu, the corporate financier of the festival who paid out $32 million in artist fees and production costs before pulling out of the event on April 29. Sources tell Billboard that Dentsu reached out to the big three agencies representing the bulk of acts at the festival — CAA, Paradigm and WME — and told reps they planned to honor their commitment and not seek the return of the money already paid to artists. At this point, Dentsu executives would prefer Woodstock 50 not take place and have sent Peck multiple letters asserting control over the event, although a New York judge’s order prevents Dentsu from cancelling Woodstock 50.
The order also prevents Dentsu from telling artists not to play the festival, which puts their agents and managers in an odd position — after countless legal loses, permitting problems and financial setbacks, it seems extremely unlikely Lang will pull the event off, yet he refuses to concede, making it difficult for everyone to move one. Most agents don’t want to jeopardize the money their artists have already been paid by announcing plans to perform elsewhere during the festival, so many are just waiting in a holding pattern.
Several sources say Watkins Glen’s announcement about cancelling Woodstock’s 50 license to use the site gives artists legal cover to pull out of the event, since the Woodstock 50 contract specifically states the event will be taking place at speedway, not two hours away. But it’s not entirely uncommon for festivals to change locations, sometimes at the last minute, and artists usually agree to make the move with the event. But the longer Woodstock drags things, it’s likely to make artists increasingly nervous about the potential for a disaster akin to the last Woodstock event in 1999, which ended with rioting and out of control fires.
“Each artist will have to make a decision about whether this is something they want to take on now that so much has changed,” one source tells Billboard. “Often, the artist will feel compelled to play because they don’t want to disappoint their fans, but in the case of Woodstock 50, no one has bought tickets yet, so there’s not really anyone to disappoint.”
It’s also unclear who will produce the event — Superfly dropped out months ago and earlier this month, CID Entertainment’s Dan Berkowitz said he was walking away from the project. Sources have confirmed with Billboard that Virgin Produced’s Jason Felt, who stages the annual KAABOO festival in Southern California, is doing some limited consulting work on the festival but has yet to agree to produce it.
With the Fourth of July weekend fast approaching and the first month of summer nearly over, agents, managers and artists are growing increasingly agitated with Lang’s behavior and insistence on dragging things out.
“If this isn’t settled by Monday, I think you’ll see a few agents say that Woodstock 50 is in breach of contract and artists will start to pull out,” one source says.