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Woodstock 50: Music Agents Band Together to Release Artists from Contract

Well it’s certainly looking like it could be a wrap for Woodstock 50.

The troubled festival was due to take place at Watkins Glen International Speedway in upstate New York Aug. 16 to 18. Since its announcement in January, the event has been dogged by financial and organizational problems, and tickets never went on sale.

Now, after finding a viable, if implausible, solution — Maryland’s Merriweather Post Pavilion — with a potential capacity of 32,500, agents are uniting to tell Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang thanks, but no thanks. A series of announcements is expected which follows an email sent to agencies last night in which Woodstock 50 organizers “invited” artists to play at the alternate location. Nobody’s obligated to play is the view of several artist representatives, though it’s worth noting that agencies cannot formally collude on such an effort, but the artists can.

“No bands want to look greedy but most can’t play Maryland and don’t want to be involved in an event that is not properly conceived and developed, or risk the health and safety of their fans,” says an insider who works with one of the headliners, adding that managers, attorneys and agents are consulting with each other. “We took it as far down the road as we could. The clock just ran out.”

Earlier today, sources close to Jay-Z confirmed the rapper is no longer participating in Woodstock 50. His departure comes hours after John Fogerty pulled his involvement from the troubled festival.

Some artists were contracted through original financial backer, Dentsu Aegis, others directly with Woodstock 50, but all participating artists are arguably in their right to cite material breach of the agreement, which specified Watkins Glen as the venue and upstate New York as the area for the festival. Organizers originally estimated an audience of up to 150,000.

As Pollstar reports, “One could argue, at least in legal terms, that when the site was moved to Vernon, N.Y., roughly 100 miles from Watkins Glen, it was still in the same upstate New York region which would fall under ‘curing a breach,’ a reasonable solution to ameliorate a breached contract.”

Merriweather Post is located in Columbia, Maryland, about 20 miles outside of Baltimore and equidistant to Washington, D.C. Seth Hurwitz’s I.M.P. operates the venue, which is roofed with open air options, including a second stage that can be used for performances. Having the festival there would solve some key issues Woodstock 50 organizers were facing, including food, beverage and parking in addition to having proper bathroom facilities and security options.

Woodstock 50 was slated to feature a blockbuster lineup including Jay-Z, Dead & Co., Miley Cyrus and many others. All of the acts were paid up front, totaling more than $30 million in talent fees — the highest paid act received $2 million, according to sources. That money remains in escrow at agencies who anticipate keeping the cancelation fee and applying it to their clients’ accounts.

Currently, the Woodstock website still lists Watkins Glen as the venue and features a countdown clock to Aug. 16.

Update: Around 3pm PT on July 26, Variety received official word that: “Dead & Company will not be performing at the Merriweather Post Pavilion August 16 – 18.” The Bob Weir and John Mayer-fronted band was among the headliners for Woodstock 50 and due to take the stage on day two of the festival. The morning of July 27, TMZ reported that Woodstock 50 would now be a “free concert.” An insider reveals that agents received word on late Friday, July 26 that Woodstock “had a new plan” and artists are now reassessing their positions individually. A rep for Woodstock declined comment.

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