Organizers of the Woodstock 50 festival have formally released all artists scheduled to play from their contracts, Billboard has learned.
John Fogerty and Jay-Z had already reportedly pulled out of the Aug. 16-18 festival and last night (July 25), reps for the festival and organizer Michael Lang emailed talent agents with bands on the bill and informed them that they would not try to enforce performance contracts for the event. Organizers attempted to move Woodstock 50 to Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland after their permit to stage the festival in Vernon, New York had been rejected.
The letter explained that artists were still invited to play the festival, but were not legally obligated to show up. Moving the event 350 miles south would be a breach of the performance contract many artists signed, although most agents believed that Woodstock 50 had breached their contracts in late April when investor Dentsu, who had spent millions on upfront artist advances, pulled out of the event and tried to cancel the festival. Today’s news frees the artists on the lineup to perform at different events from Aug. 16-18, but with only weeks to go, it’s unclear if there is enough time to add more shows.
After the Dentsu cancellation in late April, many artists had remained quiet expecting festival organizers to cancel, but instead Woodstock organizers refused to throw in the towel, racking up months of losses in court, having multiple permit applications rejected and a steady stream of event professionals — including three different festival producers — try to save the festival, only to quit weeks later.
With news that the event was trying to move 350 miles away, agents representing the acts on the original Woodstock 50 roster said the shift was a breach of the performance contract, which said the anniversary event would be held in Watkins Glen, New York.
Woodstock 50 organizers are now trying to book new artists for a possible event at Merriweather Post Pavilion, with the venues operater Seth Hurwitz from I.M.P. telling Billboard he has offered to help the event.
“Michael Lang called me a week ago about doing the show in DC proper but, on this short notice, there really wasn’t anywhere to do that. I suggested Merriweather would be a low risk option and is considered DC. Plus it has a similar historic legacy,” Hurwitz tells Billboard. “We made a deal quickly contingent on him putting a show together and dealing with the fact that we have a show booked on one of those dates. So now I’m just a venue waiting to see if the promoter with the hold is going to confirm.”
This story is developing and will update when more information becomes available.