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Woodstock cuts artists free from contracts, plans free admission for revamped event

By | Published on Monday 29 July 2019

Woodstock 50

Organisers of Woodstock 50 have invited the artists who were scheduled to play their 16-18 Aug event in New York state to take part in the scaled-down show now planned for a venue in Maryland. But, according to Billboard, the email sent to artist representatives said organisers didn’t plan to force any acts to show up for the relocated festival.

Preparations for Woodstock 50 have been somewhat eventful, of course. Along the way organisers lost their financial backers, production partners and venue. As all of that was happening, there was much speculation as to whether any of those dramas meant the festival had also likely lost its star-studded line-up.

It was known that some acts were actually contracted to financial backer Dentsu rather that the Woodstock company directly. And once a change in venue was required, it was thought that that could well be sufficient for most artists to get out of their contractual commitments to the event without incurring any penalties.

That said, because organisers were initially seeking a replacement venue in the same locale as the original site, there could still have been some contractual ambiguities regarding each artist’s right to bail. But when Team Woodstock failed to secure a licence for their alternative site in New York state, subsequently opting to move the show to a venue in Maryland, it seemed certain that all artist obligations were now definitely null and void.

Even before a message went out to agents and artist reps, John Fogarty – who played the original Woodstock and was due to return for the 50th – had confirmed he wouldn’t be travelling to Maryland next month. Word quickly followed that headliner Jay-Z had also now officially pulled out.

With the festival’s organisers confirming that no one is now obliged to go through with their Woodstock booking, it remains to be seen which artists opt in to perform at the hastily organised streamlined show due to take place at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland.

Had tickets already been sold, many artists may have felt the need to play in order to avoid disappointing fans. But, because of all the various dramas, tickets were never put on sale, meaning there is no real moral commitment to play either. And, presumably, many artists will worry about how good a show organisers can realistically now pull together before 16 Aug.

The latest message on the festival’s website says, regarding line-up: “As our celebration evolves, we are committed to bringing unique voices to the stage. Stay tuned for updates as we strive to create an event rooted in peace, love and music that can be a force for positive change in the world”.

If the event does go ahead, the latest word is that organisers would actually give away the tickets. Presumably then aiming to raise monies on site, they having already positioned the revamped show as a fundraiser for not-for-profit organisations devoted to improving voter turnout and tackling climate change.

It will be interesting to see if enough artists from the original line-up are now willing to play the new venue to make even a free ticket show attractive enough for punters.