Woodstock 50 isn’t dead — yet.
Today, a judge in New York Supreme Court ruled that Woodstock’s chief financial backer, Dentsu Aegis Network, does not have the right to unilaterally cancel the festival.
The ruling is a victory for Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang, who was adamant that Dentsu had no authority to announce the festival’s cancelation late last month. However, Lang still has a long way to go if he hopes to successful stage a 50th anniversary celebration of Woodstock.
In his ruling, Judge Barry R. Ostrager said Denstu does not have to return the $17.8 million dollars it withdrew from the festival’s shared bank account prior to announcing its cancelation. Judge Ostrager concluded that Woodstock 50 “falls woefully short of making the heightened showing necessary to warrant a mandatory injunction ordering [Dentsu] to return $17.8 million to the festival bank account and to provide W50 with access to the funds in the account.”
As such, Lang will need to find a new funding source — and quick. He previously said he needed to raise $30 million and set a deadline for last Friday. It’s unknown whether Lang has yet secured the funds, though we know Live Nation and AEG both turned down Lang’s overtures.
And even if he is able to raise the money, Lang still needs to untangle the complicated web of artists contracts, capacity issues, land permits, and ticket pricing that led Dentsu to pull out originally.
According to court documents (via Billboard), Lang repeatedly butted heads with Superfly, the company he hired to produce the festival, over the site’s capacity. Lang sought a capacity of 125,000 attendees, while Superfly believed 65,000 was a more realistic number, citing safety concerns. The reduced capacity altered Woodstock’s revenue models and led Dentsu to conclude that the festival was no longer financially viable. After Lang refused to alter talent budgets to accommodate the new revenue models, Dentsu ended its backing of the event. Superfly also ended its involvement.
It’s unclear whether Lang has resolved the capacity questions or if he has acquired the necessary permits to stage a mass gathering event of its kind. It also remains to be seen whether artists previously booked to play the festival will honor their contracts.
“We’re not even going to have a discussion with Lang until we see that every permit needed for this event has been secured,” a talent agency head previously told Billboard. “I’d also like to hear how he plans to convince fans to buy tickets for an event that’s been already canceled.”
All that being said, Lang appears confident that he can pull it off. “We have always relied on the truth and have never lost faith that the Festival would take place,” Lang said in a statement reacting to the judge’s decision. “I would like to thank all of the talent and their representatives for their patience and support. Woodstock 50 will be an amazing and inspiring festival experience.”
Added festival organizer Gregory Peck, “Woodstock 50 is on. We can’t wait to bring this important event to the public this summer. We have one of the greatest lineups of talent of any music festival, and we are grateful to all of the talent for their loyalty and support.”
Until we hear otherwise, Woodstock 50 will take place August 16th-18th in Watkins Glen, New York. The announced lineup includes many contemporary stars including JAY-Z, Miley Cyrus, Chance the Rapper, and Imagine Dragons alongside veteran artists like Robert Plant, Santana, David Crosby, John Fogerty, and Grateful Dead offshoot Dead and Company.