Court ruling on Woodstock 50: The festival can go ahead
But Dentsu Aegis Network won't be forced to return $17.8 million to festival organizers
A court says Dentsu has no right to cancel Michael Lang's anniversary festival.
The show will go on. Well, there’s hope anyway.
A court ruled that Woodstock 50's former financier—advertising group Dentsu Aegis Network—doesn't have the right to cancel this summer's festival, which was planned to mark the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock music fest. Also in the ruling: The advertising network will not be forced to return the $17.8 million it provided, then withdrew, from a festival financial account it was managing.
The ruling came from New York State Supreme Court Judge Barry Ostrager, who weighed in on a dispute that pitted festival producer Michael Lang against the agency group and its investment arm Amplifi Live.
The spat broke out April 29, when Dentsu’s Amplifi Live announced that it would cancel Woodstock 50, saying in a statement that “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.”
According to court filings, among the red flags Amplifi Live raised with the festival included the fact that “multiple permits necessary to conduct the festival were not in place, tickets had not yet been sold, no budget had been agreed upon, necessary and expensive structural improvements to the festival site and related areas had not yet started and the production company essential to produce the festival had withdrawn.”
In a statement to Ad Age, an Amplifi Live spokesperson said the company feels “vindicated to hear that the court agreed with what we have maintained all along: Woodstock 50 was not entitled to access the festival bank account per the contract and thus any access now is denied.”
“While we understand that pursuant to the court’s ruling Amplifi Live cannot cancel the festival without Woodstock 50’s agreement, at this time we do not intend to further invest in the festival due to the issues noted by the court, as well as the compressed timeframe, and multiple health and safety concerns," the spokesperson said.
Lang, meanwhile, said his team had "never lost faith that the festival would take place."
“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," he said in a statement.
The promoter's company had sought an injunction against the Dentsu arm and slammed it for pulling its funding out. The judge's ruling said that Woodstock 50 creators had “not met the high burden entitling it to a mandatory injunction” that would force Amplifi Live to return the $17.8 million Lang had sought.
In the original financing agreement with Amplifi Live, Lang had promised 150,000 tickets would be sold, according to court papers. Superfly, the event producer which also is behind festivals such as Bonnaroo in Tennessee, had surveyed the planned Woodstock 50 grounds at Watkins Glen, determining capacity would have to be capped at 75,000. Superfly raised several other concerns such as water and drainage systems needing to be built, and then also pulled out of the festival this month.
According to a court filing, Amplifi had agreed to provide $49 million to cover the production costs of the 50th anniversary festival of the original 1969 Woodstock that featured such acts as The Who, Jefferson Airplane and Jimi Hendrix. Lang announced the lineup to Woodstock 50 in March which billed current top-tier artists including The Killers, Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus plus legacy acts like Santana, Dead & Company, Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters and Canned Heat.
If the festival secures the necessary financing and permits, Woodstock 50 is set to take place August 16-18 in Watkins Glen, New York.