It’s regarded as one of the most significant cultural events of the twentieth century. The Woodstock Music & Art Fair took place over 3 days from August 15–17, 1969 on a dairy farm in upstate New York. It hosted some of the world’s most legendary performers and sparked an international movement of peace and love, but there was plenty of weird stuff that went on, as well. Here’s a look at some of the lesser-known facts about Woodstock.
It was originally a ruse to exploit “hippies” for money.
Many know Woodstock as the epitome of the Hippie movement, and for many, it was. But, the conception of the festival was based on very different values: money and greed. In early 1969, a few young entrepreneurs were looking to start a music studio in Woodstock, NY.
They landed some wealthy investors, and after several failed endeavors, they landed on creating a music festival for the Hippie generation in hopes of turning a quick profit.
The entire event was planned by trust-fund twenty-somethings.
Long before the term “millennial” was ever spoken, entitled twenty-somethings were working on their get-rich-quick plans. The festival was organized by Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, and John P. Roberts, the oldest being Artie and Joel who were 27-years-old at the time. All four were brought up in well-off families and knew the tricks of the trade to get their plans up and running.
Promoters “dreamed small” to make it happen.
Before any acts were booked and any tickets were sold, a venue needed to be selected. The organizers originally planned for around 250,000 attendees. When they began shopping around to various sites, landowners had a problem with this number. Eventually, promoters began to lie and round that number down to around 50,000, unbeknownst to the unsuspecting renters.
The performers weren’t any better.
Woodstock had an incredible line-up of iconic performers – both in their time and of all time. But, performers need to make a living, too. And while they weren’t necessarily greedy, they did expect (and in some cases, demand) to be compensated for their talent.
Jimmi Hendrix didn’t come cheap, initially asking for around $150,000, however, organizers were able to sign Hendrix for about $26,000, which was double what any other act was receiving. Some stars even demanded cash in hand before they went on stage. But to be fair, it all seems pretty harmless compared to today’s talent…
It wasn’t located in Woodstock.
It was originally intended to be held in Woodstock, New York, but that didn’t pan out. Organizers settled on setting up camp on a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, about 70 miles from Woodstock. Max Yasgur, the owner of the dairy farm, and the city of Bethel were all told only around 50,000 people would be attending the festival. That… was a lie.
Ticket sales didn’t pan out.
The event sold around 186,000 tickets in advance for around $18-24 each (that’s about $100 in today’s dollars). The plan was to sell additional tickets at the event, but things didn’t go as planned.
A mass influx of people caused event organizers to panic, and eventually over 300,000 were granted free admission to the concert of the century.
They didn’t plan for “the munchies”.
As previously mentioned, many more people attended Woodstock than the organizers had planned for. By the end of the first day, they were out of food. Local organizations stepped up to provide the hungry concertgoers with fresh sandwiches and water, but rations didn’t last long.
The graphic designer made $15, total.
Arnold Skolnick was the graphic designer hired by event organizers to create the official Woodstock poster. Nowadays, the iconic design is instantly recognizable as the logo for the greatest music festival of all time.
But, Skolnick was only ever paid $15 for his contribution to the cultural movement. Guess it’s better than nothing, right?
They missed a huge money-making opportunity.
For most, admission to the event was free. Due to the influx of people and the lack of ticket regulation, many found themselves able to just walk up to the festival grounds without having to put up any cash.
The organizers had their sights set on big profits, which makes one wonder why they didn’t sell any Woodstock merchandise or memorabilia. Talk about a missed opportunity…
They got prophets instead of profits.
Needless to say, Woodstock was not a profitable venture for its organizers. In fact, by the end of the three days, they were millions of dollars in debt.
By Saturday night, organizer John Roberts used his clout as the heir to a pharmaceutical fortune to persuade a nearby bank to issue a loan. Most of the money went to the performers who demanded cash-in-hand prior to their sets. Maybe they should have sought prophets instead.
An anti-war protest relied on the Army for help.
In what might be the most ironic fact about Woodstock, the festival grounds with hundreds of thousands of anti-war protestors sought the help of the US Army to deliver essentials including food, water, medical supplies, and perhaps most importantly, many of the renowned performers.