MAKE PEACE, MAKE LOVE, MAKE MONEY

By Published on .

Most Popular
If Woodstock '69 was about peace, love and harmony, Woodstock '94 is about peace, love and the search for profits.

So say numerous critics of the corporate sponsorship behind this weekend's 25th anniversary concert in Saugerties, N.Y.

The differences are startling. While Woodstock '69 cost about $3 million and took 15 years to make a profit, Woodstock '94 is costing an estimated $30 million. And though advance ticket sales are below expectations, the festival already has been a marketing hit, with sponsors, pay-per-view and a slew of radio, film and recording deals lined up.

While the marketing of Woodstock '94 may stun those with '60s sensibilities, the lack of marketing support is said to be the main reason for the failure of Bethel '94, the smaller, nostalgic concert canceled last week due to poor ticket sales.

Pepsi-Cola Co. spent an estimated $5 million to be the Saugerties concert's lead sponsor. Its logo and specially created "Live it. Love, Pepsi" tagline have been placed on everything from concert backer PolyGram Diversified Ventures' in-house-created TV spot for the event to commemorative soft drink cans to concert programs.

Additional sponsors spent about $1 million each to be associated with Woodstock '94: Haagen-Dazs will introduce a new frozen dessert flavor at the concert, music chain Nobody Beats the Wiz is running in-store promotions around the event and Gibson Guitar Corp. will produce "Woodstock Guitars." Other sponsors include Continental Airlines and Vermont Pure Spring Water.

The organizer of Woodstock '94, Woodstock Ventures (comprising the three main organizers of Woodstock '69) even took the unusual step of hiring Marketing Corp. of America-a marketing services company more identified with package goods than rock 'n' roll promotion-to handle corporate sponsorship.

From research studies on which bands would work best with twentysomethings to focus groups on how Woodstock '94 will be received, MCA has approached the marketing of Woodstock '94 just as it would a new grocery product.

"Woodstock '94 says that marketers or promoters of concerts are smarter today than they were in '69," says Paul Goldstein, exec VP of MCA unit Marketing Agency. "There's no way something of this scale could be done today without corporate support."

But what if the concert doesn't sell out? Woodstock '94 sponsors are unconcerned. Says a Pepsi spokeswoman: "We still expect it to be an enormously successful concert and we're confident turnout will be quite strong."

Adds a spokeswoman for CBS Radio Networks: "We're excited."

Woodstock '94 comes as concert and music promotions overall have changed dramatically.

"When the Rolling Stones toured 25 years ago, they just showed up and played. Now it's a big event with major corporate sponsorship," says Michael Patti, executive creative director of BBDO Worldwide, New York, the agency for Woodstock '94 sponsors Pepsi and Haagen-Dazs.

Corporate sponsorship of pop music/entertainment tours has been growing for years. International Events Group, Chicago, projects sponsors will increase spending on such events 17.8% to $425 million this year compared with last year.

"There are incredible costs associated with concerts today. You can't support that just with ticket prices," says Jim Andrews, editorial director of IEG's Sponsorship Event newsletter.

Corporate sponsorship of rock concerts also represents shifts in marketing overall.

"Companies don't want to be just a passive ad on a page anymore," says Mr. Andrews. "They want to interact with their audience through sampling. They want to be associated with [their target's] happiest experiences."

"Today we have a rock 'n' roll culture," says Dave Rheins, associate publisher of Spin. "The people from the '60s have become the establishment and they're imbuing corporate America with their culture. Rock has gone from anti-establishment to first pop and then mainstream culture."

But just as Woodstock '69 symbolized spontaneous, joyous, non-violent anarchy, Woodstock '94 is seen, in part, as a tribute to business' mania for control.

"Woodstock '94 sponsors want signage, they want exclusive rights, they want to quantify the outcome," says Mr. Rheins. "They'll want to know how many samples they sold."

If those who went to Woodstock '69 would have been scandalized by such things then, Generation X is expected to barely notice. Bob Dylan may have sown the musical seeds for the Woodstock generation, but his son Jesse, who directed the Pepsi-BBDO TV spot promoting the concert, is a better symbol for today's youth: a recognition of the blurred lines between art and commerce.

"Young people today are used to attending concerts deluged with T-shirts and sponsors-and they don't care," says Joel Rosenman, president of Woodstock Ventures. "They care if they're getting their money's worth in terms of the music."

Of course, some people do object. But to the many who don't, Woodstock '94 is an event like no other: a tribute to the past and a reflection of today.

"This is an opportunity to see great bands and hang out in a beautiful setting," says Jane Lipsitz, supervisor of marketing and sales for PolyGram and, at 28, a bona fide member of Generation X. "Don't overanalyze it."

In this article: