This summer’s Woodstock 50 anniversary festival continues to be marred by logistical issues, investor drama, and conflicting information from organizers.
The latest development in this strange saga appears to continue the chaotic trend: According to a lawsuit obtained by TMZ, the event’s organizers have filed a lawsuit against their former financial backers, Dentsu Aegis Network, claiming that the firm stole upwards of $17M from the festival. The suit also reportedly alleges that Dentsu attempted to sabotage Woodstock 50’s attempts to revive their festival by contacting agents of the booked artists to persuade them to back out. According to TMZ, Woodstock 50 claims that Dentsu implied to certain artists that they would help book them to play at a 2020 Olympics event—which Dentsu is sponsoring—if they canceled their Woodstock booking.
In a letter from Lang to Dentsu, which was picked up by various news outlets, Lang argued, “We also have evidence that Dentsu representatives have gone so far as to say that should the talent back out of Woodstock, they would be seen favorably by Dentsu, and that this could result in their performing the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where Dentsu is a major organizer. In these actions too, Dentsu has acted not only without honor, but outside of the law.”
The public clash between Woodstock 50 organizers and Dentsu began in late April when Dentsu released a statement explaining that they had pulled their support were officially canceling the event. Considering the current state of affairs, the financiers determined 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.”
However, Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang was quick to refute the cancellation. That same day, festival organizers told The Poughkeepsie Journal that “Woodstock 50 vehemently denies the festival’s cancellation and legal remedy will (be) sought.” Lang later told The New York Times that “They do not have the right to unilaterally cancel the festival,” noting that the cancellation announcement by Dentsu caught him by surprise.
Earlier this week, Dentsu officials told TMZ, “As financial partner, we had the customary rights one would expect to protect a large investment. After we exercised our contractual right to take over, and subsequently, cancel the festival, we simply recovered the funds in the festival bank account, funds we originally put in as a financial partner. … Further, tickets cannot go on sale for an event prior to obtaining a mass gathering permit, which has still not been granted. And we stand by original statement made last week.”
In the days since, Lang has publicly made various claims about alternative financing goals while maintaining that Woodstock 50 will, in fact, go on as planned. Billboard reported that organizers will need to raise more than $20M by Friday in order for the event to go on.
It’s admittedly tough to keep up with the current back-and-forth regarding the fate of Woodstock 50. As of now, tickets have not yet gone on sale and the status of the festival remains uncertain, though it’s still technically going to happen—depending on who you ask.