Judge rules in Woodstock 50’s favor, festival can continue but remains in deep financial trouble
The fate of Woodstock 50 is now slightly clearer, albeit bleaker, as the New York Supreme Court recently ruled that the anniversary mega-fest may continue, but that Dentsu—the Japanese conglomerate that invested $18 million in the event—is not required to return their investment.
Woodstock 50 has been in limbo since Dentsu rescinded their investment last month; even going so far as to announce the event’s cancellation, though Michael Lang, the festival’s co-founder and one of the lead organizers for Woodstock 50, has been vocally committed to seeing the festival through.
The decision by New York Supreme Court judge, Barry Ostrager, pertained to the rights of Dentsu and their subsidiary Amplfi regarding whether they were contractually permitted to cancel Woodstock 50 of their own accord after ending their relationship with the event. In this regard, the judge ruled in favor of Lang in that the festival can continue, but according to Ostrager’s ruling the attorney for Woodstock 50, Marc Kasowitz, was unable to meet “the high burden entitling it to a mandatory injunction forcing Amplifi to provide W50 with access to the $17.8 million W50 is not contractually entitled to control under (its contract between Dentsu/Amplifi and Woodstock 50).”
Now, the festival is essentially bankrupt. Lang and the rest of Woodstock 50 team will be forced to find new sources of income if the event is to proceed as planned for it’s announced dates of August 16–18 in Watkins Glen, New York.
Also in his decision, Ostrager noted a number of issues with the festival, contending, “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site and related areas had not yet started, and the production company essential to produce the festival [Superfly] had withdrawn.”
There are also reports that Lang misrepresented the capacity of the festival to Dentsu, claiming an attendance cap of over 150,000 people while Superfly—the production company responsible for producing the festival at the time—gave a figure closer to one third of that total, rounding out near 65,000.
This was just one of the conflicting accounts that created tension between Dentsu, Lang, and Superfly. In emails included in the case, Lang claimed the opposing capacity figures were a deliberate attempt to sabotage the festival into losing millions of dollars. In further emails, Dentsu Chief Operating Officer DJ Martin suggested approaching another production company, CID Entertainment, to gain “leverage” over Superfly.
With the growing contention looming, Superfly severed ties with Woodstock 50 once Dentsu had announced they would terminate their investment, leaving the event without a production company. Lang reportedly reached out to entertainment giants AEG and Live Nation for a $20 million investment, but those negotiations failed.
Despite a situation that is eerily reminiscent of the notorious blunder that was Fyre Festival, Lang maintained this decision in court a win and gave a hopeful statement in response, “We have always relied on the truth and have never lost faith that the Festival would take place,” he said. “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.”