Woodstock 50 cancelled…or is it?

This morning a statement from Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live said:

“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.  As a result and after careful consideration, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner of Woodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival.  As difficult as it is, we believe this is the most prudent decision for all parties involved.”

But organizers for the 2019 Woodstock festival say this is false and the concert will be held. 

“Woodstock 50 vehemently denies the festival’s cancellation and legal remedy will (be) sought,” a statement from Woodstock 50 said. 

Woodstock 50 was scheduled to be held Aug. 16-18 in Watkins Glen, Schuyler County. County Administrator Tim O’Hearn said he received email notification of the cancellation.

O’Hearn said state and local officials were planning the event for months.

There was no prior indication of any problems, and cancellation of the event is a big disappointment, he said.

“It’s a surprise, no question about that, and we’re certainly disappointed and have to respect their decision, but this is a huge economic loss for the county,” O’Hearn said. “We hope we can salvage something from it as we move forward.

“There has been substantial planning from both the state and county, as well as the town (of Dix) and Village of Watkins Glen for months now,” he said. “The state in particular has deployed tremendous resources to assist with planning efforts, geared toward a safe and responsible event.”

Watkins Glen International racetrack had no comment.

Considered the crowning achievement of the 1960s counterculture, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair Aug. 15-18, 1969 attracted hundreds of thousands of people to Bethel in Sullivan County. Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Richie Havens and Janis Joplin were among the performers at the festival, which took place against the backdrop of 1960s turmoil.

Woodstock 50 is being produced under license from Woodstock Ventures, which was founded by Ulster County resident Michael Lang, Joel Rosenman and the late John Roberts. Those three, along with Artie Kornfeld, produced the 1969 Woodstock festival. Kornfeld will be rejoining the team for Woodstock 50.

Troubles rumored

News that Woodstock 50 is possibly canceled is the latest obstacle to emerge in Lang’s plans to mark the golden anniversary of perhaps the most famous concert ever. 

Late on April 19, multiple media outlets including Billboard and Variety reported an email alerted agents representing acts scheduled to play the festival that ticket sales had been postponed. In a response to a Billboard article asserting there were fears that the postponement was indicative of a larger problem with the event, Lang told Billboard it was simply “rumors.”

Lang’s statement came in advance of the date upon which tickets were scheduled to go on sale, April 22. On April 20, Woodstock 50 said tickets would be going on sale “soon” rather than on April 22.

On April 21, O’Hearn said the state Department of Health was reviewing Woodstock 50’s permit application, which he said was submitted April 15. The state must issue a temporary permit for events before ticket sales can begin, he said.

That permit application was still pending on Friday, April 26.

 Last week, a representative for the festival reached out to officials with Live Nation and AEG to inquire about a $20 million investment to save the event, but both companies declined the offer.

The solicitation came just days after missing a deadline to begin selling tickets for the Aug. 16-18 festival. Besides issues with financing and permits, organizers were growing increasingly concerned that the Watkins Glen International speedway would not be able accommodate the 100,000-person festival.

More than $30 million has already been spent on the festival lineup, a source with knowledge of the proposal tells Billboard and most artists have already been paid by Amplify Live, the investment arm of Dentsu Aegis Network, a multinational media and digital marketing firm headquartered in London and a wholly owned by Japanese media firm Dentsu.

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