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Woodstock Founder Michael Lang Slams ‘Shortsighted’ Investors Who ‘Don’t Have a Right to Cancel’ Festival

Woodstock founder Michael Lang has written an open letter in which he reaffirms that the Woodstock 50 festival set for August is still on, despite the cancellation notice sent out Monday by investors — whom he calls “shortsighted partners” who “don’t have a right to cancel it.”

“Yesterday, our financial partner, Dentsu-Aegis, made the decision to pull out and informed us that they were cancelling the festival at the same time they let the press release go public,” Lang wrote. “We have yet to understand why they would try to prevent the festival from happening by seemingly undermining us in this way. It is one thing to decide for oneself that it is best to move on, but it is entirely another thing to try and close the door on us. … Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it.”

Lang ended his missive with the same language he used in a shorter statement Monday, insisting Woodstock 50 will not only go on as planned but “will be a blast.”

The festival has run into gradually larger hiccups on the path to the August 16-18 weekend in Watkins Glen, New York, with headliners scheduled to include Jay-Z, Dead & Company, the Killers, Chance the Rapper, Miley Cyrus and Janelle Monáe. The Black Keys pulled out as a headliner shortly after the lineup was announced, for reasons unknown. More seriously, ongoing negotiations with local authorities over the capacity for the festival caused the on-sale date to be postponed; even ticket prices have yet to be set. But the major acts on the lineup all received their guarantee in advance, so there’s been no open panic so far on the artists’ side.

Denstu, one of Japan’s largest ad and PR agencies, was among several key stakeholders in Woodstock 50, with Lang, vendor Superfly Productions and booker Danny Wimmer among the others. The agency had invested north of $30 million in the festival, according to an insider. On Monday, Dentsu’s investment arm, Amplifi Live, released a statement saying that “despite our tremendous investment of time, effort and commitment, 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. As a result and after careful consideration, Dentsu Aegis Network’s Amplifi Live, a partner of Woodstock 50, has decided to cancel the festival. As difficult as it is, we believe this is the most prudent decision for all parties involved.”

Lang’s letter Tuesday didn’t address specifics of the rift, but did compare it to the snafus that were overcome on the road to the original Woodstock in 1969, saying it felt like “deja vu all over again.” “Supporting the principles of activism and sustainability (is) too important to be derailed by shortsighted partners,” he wrote.

Lang’s open letter, in full:

“Dear Woodstock Friends,

“It seems in a way that history is repeating itself. In July of 1969 we lost our site in Walkill and with only a month to go we managed to move to Bethel. Woodstock was going to happen no matter what!

“This time around, Woodstock’s new hometown, Dix & Watkins Glen, NY and New York State have been really wonderful. I went door to door to talk to the neighbors. Some remembered Summer Jam back in ’73 and were worried about history repeating itself. But they opened their doors to us and we talked it out.  Many of those people have reached out over the last 24 hours with messages of hope and encouragement. The venue, Watkins Glen International, have been totally supportive and professional.

“Yesterday, our financial partner, Dentsu-Aegis, made the decision to pull out and informed us that they were cancelling the festival at the same time they let the press release go public. We have yet to understand why they would try to prevent the festival from happening by seemingly undermining us in this way. It is one thing to decide for oneself that it is best to move on, but it is entirely another thing to try and close the door on us.

“Yesterday, I couldn’t help but relive that moment 50 years ago – it was ‘déjà vu all over again’!
Supporting the principles of activism and sustainability are too important to be derailed by shortsighted partners. We continue our work with NYS, Schuyler County and various parties to keep things on track.

“Woodstock never belonged to Dentsu, so they don’t have a right to cancel it. Woodstock belongs to the people and it always will. We don’t give up and Woodstock 50 will take place and will be a blast!

“Thanks for Listening, Michael”

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