Woodstock 50 Was Doomed 7 Months Ago, Promoter Admits
Woodstock 50 promoter Michael Lang is taking responsibility for the festival’s failure, admitting that a decision in November 2018 proved to be the “biggest factor” in its collapse.
The event was officially canceled on Wednesday with just over two weeks to go until a cut-down version was to be staged in Maryland. The original location in Watkins Glen, N.Y., had already been ruled out and another replacement venue then proved impossible to secure. By that time, most of the initially announced lineup had withdrawn for various reasons.
“It was over the last day and a half,” Lang tells Rolling Stone. “We all got together what needs to be done in what timeframe, and why push it when it wouldn’t be smooth and very last minute? We were reflecting on what the reasons were behind doing it, and they didn’t necessitate being done on that date. It was too much pressure. … I was disappointed, but not surprised.”
He said the festival’s choice of financial partner was the most critical mistake. Dentsu Aegis Network withdrew in April, triggering a dispute over $17 million and leaving Woodstock 50 without funding – a situation Lang says he dealt with as best he could.
“We just frankly picked the wrong partner in Dentsu,” Lang argues. “They didn’t really understand the business. When the agreement went at the last minute of just being a backer to a co-producer, they had input into everything that we did. It just pretty much went off the rails from the beginning. They weren’t cognizant of the timeframe for how these things have to get done and how much work has to get done.”
He claims Dentsu’s slow pace meant too much time was wasted in securing the services of the event production company Superfly, making it impossible to obtain permits needed to stage the event at Watkins Glen. “We signed the deal with Dentsu on, I think, November 2nd," Lang says. "We should have hired Superfly the day after we signed with Dentsu. It took them until the middle of January. That threw everything behind schedule. Superfly was tasked with getting the mass-gathering permit, but they started so late they were frankly unable to finish it up. I think that’s part of the reason why Dentsu pulled out.”
Reflecting on the situation, Lang added: “I take full responsibility for agreeing to go with Dentsu. It was the biggest factor on why this thing didn’t happen. … People don’t understand that there is compelling forces at work and you need to be timely and move quickly. Because they aren’t familiar with things, they were very cautious and paranoid on how to move and thought they had ideas about how things should go which made no sense. I take that on myself.”
Asked about his biggest takeaway, he replied: “The major one, frankly, is if you have an investor that’s just going be an investor and stay out of your way, then fine. But if not, you really should be in business with some people who are of the business.”
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