Woodstock 50 organizers won damages in a settlement from their main investor who pulled funding for the festival due to safety concerns in a lawsuit. The festival was officially cancelled back in July of 2019 after months of turmoil in its feasibility, especially after the main investor withdrew.
Dentsu, a Japanese-owned advertising firm, was the main investor in the festival. They breached their contract in April of 2019 when they pulled their investment. Dentsu ended up settling their lawsuit with the Woodstock 50 organizers according to court documents obtained by Billboard on January 31, 2021. The documents showed the damages that were awarded to Woodstock 50 in October were “significantly less than what [Woodstock 50] purported to spend on attorneys’ fees.” It’s unclear exactly how much was won in the settlement. The lawsuit also accused Dentsu of tortious interference, defamation, business disparagement and conspiracy on top of breaching the contract they signed when pulling out of the investment.
The original dates for the festival were scheduled for August 16-18, 2019 in Watkins Glen, New York. The organizers of the festival had originally hoped for 150,000 people to attend but Watkins Glen’s capacity was reduced to 75,000 people. Dentsu withdrew $18 million of the $49 million they had already agreed to pay and pulled out over concerns with Woodstock 50’s issues behind the scenes, health/safety concerns and disputes about the capacity of the festivities. The headliners included big names like Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Santana, The Lumineers, Dead & Company, John Fogerty, Chance the Rapper, The Raconteurs, Janelle Monae, Halsey and Imagine Dragons. All of the performers were paid in advance a sum of $30 million according to Syracuse.com.
Woodstock 50 festival ended up entirely losing it’s site at Watkins Glen after they missed their final payment of $150,000. They then attempted a pile of different things to save the festival. They tried to move the festival to Vernon Downs, but the Town of Vernon denied the festival’s requests multiple times due to safety concerns and incomplete permit applications. The organizers then tried one last attempt to have the festival in Maryland but that also ended up falling through.
One of the main concerns with Woodstock 50 across the board seemed to be with it’s lack of realistic safety guidelines and plans. Co-founder of Woodstock 50 Michael Lang accused Dentsu of sabotaging the Woodstock anniversary event and spreading misinformation to prevent them from holding it at a different site. It’s unclear how much of the events’ misfortunate cancellation was due to Dentsu sabotaging it and how much might be due to poor organizational skills from it’s organizers. Hopefully it will serve as a warning to future event organizers to vet their investors and to address safety concerns early on in the process of putting together a festival.