Tickets for Woodstock 50, the upcoming celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1969 music festival, were supposed to go on sale last month. Instead, on April 22, Dentsu Aegis Network, the company that was financially backing the festival, announced it was canceled. But according to Woodstock 50 organizer Michael Lang, who also organized the original 1969 event, the story isn’t over yet. This week, Lang wrote an open letter to Dentsu president Toshihiro Yamamoto, accusing the firm of improperly seizing control of the festival, canceling it without notifying him, and taking “approximately” $17 million from the festival’s bank account.
“On Monday, April 29, 2019, your team sent notice to us at 11 a.m. EDT that they had taken control of the festival (which they have no legal right to do) and at 11:15 a.m. EDT advised that they had cancelled the festival (which they had no legal right to do),” Lang wrote in the letter. “This same team had also already notified the press without any advance notice to me or my team. While we were on a call together as a group at 12:00 EDT, the media had already begun reporting that Woodstock was cancelled. I then learned that Amplifi illegally swept approximately $17 million from the festival bank account leaving the festival in peril. These actions confirmed my worst concerns about partnering with your company. These actions are neither a legal nor honorable way to do business.”
Lang goes on to claim in the letter that Dentsu is now promising “indemnification” to musicians who back out of their previously-announced gigs at Woodstock 50.
“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,” Lang wrote. “In these actions too, Dentsu has acted not only without honor, but outside of the law.”
Dentsu representatives did not respond to EW’s request for comment, but in a statement to Variety, they said, “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 which we originally put in as financial partner. Further, tickets cannot go on sale for an event prior to obtaining a mass gathering permit, which has still not been granted. Beyond that we stand by our original statement that we made last week.”
Woodstock 50 had been scheduled for Aug. 16-18 in Watkins Glen, New York, but it’s now unclear whether the festival will proceed.