After declaring victory last week in a New York hearing, Woodstock 50 is now appealing part of the ruling and trying to force the festival’s former financer Dentsu to return $18 million it withdrew from the event’s banking account.
On May 15, Justice Barry Ostrager ruled Dentsu did not have the right to cancel Woodstock 50, but also decided he would not force Dentsu to return the remainder of the $49 million investment to festival founder Michael Lang and his partner Greg Peck so they could continue to produce the show.
Woodstock 50 attorney Marc Kasowitz‘s appeal filed Tuesday with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York states Ostrager “erred in denying” Woodstock’s request to compel Dentsu “to restore the $18 million to the Festival’s dedicated account, and to permit the use of those funds to produce the Festival.” He also noted that Dentsu “has admitted it has no intention of producing the festival, nor restoring funds that were wrongfully diverted” by the Japanese advertising firm.
Oppenheimer & Co. becomes new Woodstock 50 financial backer
Oppenheimer & Co., a New York–based investment bank and financial services company, has agreed to provide a new round of financing, according to Rolling Stone. They note the firm did not disclose how much it was putting up in an announcement.
“We are thrilled to be onboard for this incredible weekend of music and social engagement,” John Tonelli, head of Debt Capital Markets & Syndication at Oppenheimer & Co. Inc, said in a statement. “We believe in Woodstock as an important American cultural icon and look forward to its regeneration in the green fields of Watkins Glen this August with all of the artists on the remarkable lineup.”
Michael Lang, co-founder of Woodstock 50, continued being optimistic about the event. “We look forward to putting on an incredible festival. Words cannot express how appreciative Woodstock 50, the artists, the fans, and community are to Oppenheimer for joining with us to make W50 a reality.”
There’s still a major challenge for Woodstock 50. That’s the mass-gathering permit, which will have to be secured via the State Department of Health. Until that’s secured tickets will not be able to go ‘on sale’.
At the end of the week, Lang said that tickets would cost less than $400 for a weekend pass. The festival is set to happen Aug. 16-18.
Lang says new investor will be announced, tickets will cost under $400
It would appear as though Woodstock 50 is back on … at least for the time being.
Co-founder Michael Lang appeared on a SiriusXM show this week to give an update on the court decision, which noted that Dentsu did not have the authority to cancel the event. The investor, who was paying millions to Lang and others under the Woodstock 50 name to produce the August 16-18 festival was allowed to take their money.
It left a huge hole for Lang and others to dig out from.
The expected lineup included Jay-Z, Santana, Miley Cyrus, The Killers, Chance the Rapper, John Fogerty, Janelle Monae, Dead & Company, Halsey, and Imagine Dragons.
While tickets were supposed to go on sale in late-April – that never happened. Now, Lang says tickets will go on sale – and for less in the next two weeks.
A new financial backer has been secured, according to Lang’s interview. Tickets will cost less than $400, too.
“We have an amazing production partner coming in, we’ll announce in a week or so, which I think will surprise everybody. It’s been an unbelievable ride,” Lang told SiriusXM Volume hosts Ni Carter and Lori Majewski on their satellite radio show “Feedback.”
Ultimately, disputes over capacity led to confusion about Woodstock 50. While some estimated 100,000 – investors argued that Lang claimed as many as 150,000 would attend. Ultimately, a mass gathering permit was applied for to see 75,000 festival goers.
Lang says that Woodstock 50 performers have been paid in advance and remain under contract to perform. The cost of booking talent exceeded $23.5 million, according to court documents. As much as $30 million more is needed to make the festival happen.
Woodstock 50 isn’t cancelled, but organizers need to secure millions
The Woodstock 50 festival is back on after a court rebuffed an ex-investor’s effort to cancel the anniversary extravaganza – but organizers will have to do without some $18 million, at least for now.
Manhattan judge Barry Ostrager ruled Wednesday that the festival’s former chief backer, Amplifi Live, couldn’t singlehandedly call off the August show but also doesn’t have to put the $18 million back into it. The money dispute and other issues are poised for arbitration.
Organizers celebrated the ruling, which came after dueling claims about whether the festival was on or off.
“We have always relied on the truth and have never lost faith that the festival would take place,” said Michael Lang, one of Woodstock 50’s organizers and a promoter of the original 1969 Woodstock concert.
Woodstock 50 organizers clash with investor in court as festival remains in flux
Accusations and counterclaims have piled up as lawyers for organizers of the Woodstock 50 festival and their onetime financial partner head toward a court hearing Monday.
With less than 100 days to go, the two sides are clashing over money, control, preparations and even whether the anniversary show will go on.
The show is supposed to unfold Aug. 16-18 at Watkins Glen International racetrack as a massive, big-name homage to one of the most significant events in pop music history and 1960s counterculture.
The over 80-artist lineup ranges from original Woodstock veterans, such as Santana and Canned Heat, to performers born a generation later, including Chance the Rapper and Miley Cyrus. Jay-Z, Dead & Company and the Killers have been announced as headliners.
Behind-the-scenes disputes spilled dramatically into public view April 29, when the chief investor announced that it was canceling the festival. The backer, an arm of Japanese marketing firm Dentsu, cited health and safety concerns and said there was no way to carry out “an event worthy of the Woodstock brand name.”
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REPORT: Lang needs $30M secured by Friday to keep Woodstock 50 alive
Things keep getting more complicated for Woodstock 50 and it’s organizers.
Co-founder Michael Lang is accusing the former festival financier Dentsu Aegis and their President and CEO Toshihiro Yamamoto of treachery. Lang accuses the entity of taking $17 million.
Now, he’s seeking $30 million to keep the festival alive. Those investments will need to land by Friday, May 10th – if Woodstock 50 will happen.
The report published in the Poughkeepsie Journal indicates that Lang sent Yamamoto a letter on Monday saying “we only would ask that you honor the law and your obligations, stop interfering with our efforts to put on this wonderful event and return the $17 million you improperly took.”
Dentsu pulled out from the event on April 29th and announced cancellation of the festival.
A Dentsu spokesperson told media on Tuesday the following:
“As financial partner, we had the customary rights one would expect to protect a large investment. After we exercised our contractual right to take over, and subsequently cancel the festival, we simply recovered the funds in the festival bank account, funds which we originally put in as financial partner.”
Lang said in the report that Dentsu is a major organizer of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. He added, “In the end, since Dentsu has already abandoned Woodstock, all I ask for is that Dentsu walk away peacefully and allow me to deliver to the people a 50th Anniversary Festival.”
Michael Lang hires Trump attorney after computers hacked; future of Woodstock 50 remains unclear
Woodstock 50 Co-Founder Michael Lang is pushing back against reports that artists have bailed, or that the three-day music festival is in jeopardy.
While agents have told Billboard that Lang is wrong – the man behind the event has hired attorney Marc Kasowitz.
The high-profile trial lawyer, who is a partner at 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 is the latest addition to the growing confusion and controversy.
“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 their 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.”
Billboard has doubled-down, and says agents with two talent agencies representing major headliners for the festival reiterated that with Dentsu Aegis pulling out on Monday – their contracts are nullified. They additionally told Billboard that with Dentsu out – there is ‘no chance’ their artists will perform.
Meanwhile, Lang began telling reporters on Thursday that computers had been hacked at Woodstock 50. He believed the media was to blame.
Follow below for more on this story; and to see how it has evolved over the last several days.
Woodstock 50 has reportedly lost financial backing, production company, and artists for Watkins Glen festival
After a back-and-forth between Dentsu and Michael Lang, over the future of Woodstock 50 – Billboard is reporting that two major talent agencies with headliners booked for the event say their contracts are voided.
“Dentsu’s decision to pull out of the event voids their contract and releases them from playing the festival,” Billboard reported on Wednesday. “The artist contracts are with Dentsu, not with Michael Lang or Woodstock 50,” an agent with artists booked for the event told Billboard.
It runs contrary to co-founder Michael Lang’s sentiment on Tuesday, following the shakeup, which came on Monday after Dentsu said Woodstock 50 had been cancelled.
The entire chain of events was set into motion on Monday – when Dentsu, a significant financial backer of the festival – said they were pulling out from the event – thus cancelling it.
They had a variety of concerns about Watkins Glen International, which was set to host the festival from August 16-18. Among those concerns were site readiness, capacity, and the amount of money needed to make the event take place, which was expecting upwards of 150,000.
Dentsu Aegis — a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Dentsu — had sunk $30 million into the festival’s massive lineup and was now walking away from its foray into the live music space, according to Billboard.
After that, Lang responded on Tuesday to Dentsu’s claim that Woodstock 50 had been cancelled. “Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it,” he wrote in a statement to supporters. “Woodstock belongs to the people and it always will.”
His full-statement from Tuesday can be read below.
Billboard says Lang is only ‘half right’ when he says the festival isn’t owned by Dentsu. “Dentsu does not own the Woodstock name nor does it control the Woodstock 50 brand. But ‘the people’ don’t own it either,” they reported. ” Lang and his three partners (and their families) at Woodstock Ventures own the name. Confusion over who actually controls Woodstock is helping fuel Lang’s claims that Woodstock will still happen, but it is highly unlikely an event will take place that bears any resemblance to the three-day festival headlined by Dead and Co., Jay-Z, The Killers, Miley Cyrus and all the artists on the bill.”
Here’s where the latest piece of information complicates the festival status.
The artists booked for Woodstock 50 were contracted with Dentsu, or Amplify Live, a holding company which is controlled by Dentsu, according to the latest Billboard report. When a spokesperson for Dentsu issued a statement announcing cancelation – the artists who had agreed to play the festival were released from contracts.
That’s according to the information agencies have been providing to Billboard.
They note that artists like Halsey and Imagine Dragons have no obligation to play an event produced by Lang – even if it’s called Woodstock 50.
One agency even said they’re not having another discussion about Woodstock 50 until every permit is secured. And that hasn’t happened yet, either.
Rolling Stone also reported late-Wednesday that Superfly, which co-produces Bonnaroo and Outside Lands – and was slated to produce Woodstock 50. That was until this week.
“The producers of the Woodstock 50th anniversary festival hired Superfly to leverage our expertise as veteran event producers to manage festival operations, a role that aligned with our mission of creating shared experiences that build community,” a spokesperson for the company told Rolling Stone. “Throughout our engagement our team provided counsel and recommendation on the necessary elements required to produce a safe and first-class experience. Following the decision of one of our clients, Dentsu, to cancel the event, we will no longer be participating in ongoing related activities.”
Lang blasts Dentsu-Aegis, says Woodstock 50 will happen
The lead organizer behind the Woodstock 50 festival is speaking out against the rumors that the landmark event scheduled for August 16-18 was cancelled.
He discussed the act of history repeating itself around the event reflecting on events that led up to the 1969 festival in Bethel.
“It seems in a way that history is repeating itself. In July of 1969 we lost our site in Walkill and with only a month to go we managed to move to Bethel,” Michael Lang said in an emailed statement to supporters. “Woodstock was going to happen no matter what.”
He says that this time around – Woodstock’s new hometown is Dix and Watkins Glen. Lang says that support from the communities, as well as New York State has been ‘really wonderful’.
“I went door to door to talk to the neighbors. Some remembered Summer Jam back in ’73 and were worried about history repeating itself,” Lang continued. “But they opened their doors to us and we talked it out. Many of those people have reached out over the last 24 hours with messages of hope and encouragement.”
Lang says that Watkins Glen International has also been ‘totally supportive’ and professional throughout the process of planning the landmark event.
Addressing concerns around Dentsu-Aegis, who said Woodstock was cancelled on Monday – Lang insists that idea is false – and that this festival will happen – much like Woodstock did in 1969.
“Yesterday, our financial partner, Dentsu-Aegis, made the decision to pull out and informed us that they were cancelling the festival at the same time they let the press release go public,” Lang continued in the letter to supporters. “We have yet to understand why they would try to prevent the festival from happening by seemingly undermining us in this way. It is one thing to decide for oneself that it is best to move on, but it is entirely another thing to try and close the door on us.”
He says that Monday felt like a moment ‘reliving’ his experience from 50 years ago. “It was ‘deja vu all over again’,” he added. “Supporting the principles of activism and sustainability are too important to be derailed by shortsighted partners.
Lang says that they will continue working with partners in New York State, Schuyler County, and other entities to keep the festival on-track.
“Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it. Woodstock belongs to the people it always will,” he added. “We don’t give up; and Woodstock 50 will take place and will be a blast,” Lang concluded.
If the event is back on, it’s unclear where funding will come from – given that a major supporter of the event pulled out this week; or when tickets could go on sale officially.
Officials say Woodstock 50 has been cancelled; organizer says historic show will go on
Then, Schuyler County Administrator Tim O’Hearn confirmed to the Poughkeepsie Journal confirmed that news. The Billboard report was backed by an announcement from Dentsu Aegis Network, who was a primary financial backer of the event.
“It’s a dream for agencies to work with iconic brands and to be associated with meaningful movements. We have a strong history of producing experiences that bring people together around common interests and causes which is why we chose to be a part of the Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival. But 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 said.
Then, Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang publicly vowed to fight the statements made by those involved. He initially claimed they weren’t true – but that was before O’Hearn confirmed the cancellation.
“Woodstock 50 vehemently denies the festival’s cancellation and legal remedy will (be) sought,” Lang said in a statement to the Journal. He followed that up with a post to Facebook, which included:
“We are committed to ensuring that the 50th anniversary of Woodstock is marked with a festival deserving of its iconic name and place in American history and culture. Although our financial partner is withdrawing, we will, of course, be continuing with the planning of the festival and intend to bring on new partners. We would like to acknowledge the State of New York and Schuyler County for all of their hard work and support. The bottom line is, there is going to be a Woodstock 50th Anniversary Festival, as there must be, and it’s going to be a blast!”
State Sen. Tom O’Mara (R-Big Flats) shared his disappointment about the reported cancellation. “It’s a deep disappointment. Woodstock 50 would have been a historic show and a huge boon to the region economically,” he said.
Here’s what we know based on reporting that’s been circulating for the last several weeks:
– More than $30 million has already been spent on the festival lineup.
– Live Nation was reportedly sought out last week for a $20 million investment to ‘save’ the event. AEG was also reached, but both failed.
– Ticket sales were announced as being delayed amid reports that mass gathering permits were not coming together as expected. That was when total attendance forecasts were dropped from 100,000 to 75,000.
– The Black Keys had dropped from the event citing a schedule conflict. However, a number of scheduled performers – never publicly listed Woodstock as a stop on their schedules.
No single-day tickets were going to be sold to the event, either. Instead, three-day passes, which were expected to cost $450 were going to be sold as alternatives.
|Reporting in this story by News Director Josh Durso. He hosts a pair of podcasts on FingerLakes1.com. Check out Inside the FLX and Sunday Conversation each week on FingerLakes1.com. Email tips and leads to [email protected].|