Was Woodstock 99 Profitable? How Much Money Did Woodstock 99 Make?

was woodstock 99 profitable

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of the peace and love music festival that served as the epicenter of the counterculture, it seemed like a fantastic plan on paper: let’s recreate Woodstock. Groovy.

Notably, four days of bloodshed came after that. It will go down in history as one of the worst music festivals ever because of the deaths, rapes, assaults, violence, and burning that blighted it. 

The historical significance of the initial meeting in ’69 was all but destroyed.

What specifically occurred to make Woodstock 1999 such a dreadful catastrophe, especially in light of the three-part Netflix documentary that will detail the pandemonium of that extended weekend?

The outcome of these events leads this article to examine the question; was Woodstock 99 profitable? 

Another question that needs an answer to is how much money did Woodstock 99 make?

Therefore, it is the intention of this write-up to answer these questions; was Woodstock 99 profitable? 

And how much money did Woodstock 99 make?

Kindly read through to the end.

Key Takeaways 


  • Woodstock ’99 is a three-part documentary that explores the devastation that followed. There were several crimes, reports of sexual assault, a lack of clean water for attendees, a trench mouth (yep, the ailment linked to World War I), and three fatalities.
  • Despite the fact that many things went wrong, the festival made a lot of money. A multi-million dollar number has already been reached due to the four-day summer music festival’s attendance of more than 400,000 people and its $150 ticket price. When vendors are included, it becomes much more.

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What is the Backstory of Woodstock ‘99?

was woodstock 99 profitable

A Woodstock festival in 1994, which took place five years before 1999, similarly ended in disaster. 

Storms caused the area to become a vast mud puddle, with more guests than anticipated (an estimated 350,000 showed there), making it impossible to control the crowd properly, and two people died as a result. 

During another performance at the festival, the lead singer of the band Jackyl set a stool on fire, attacked it with a chainsaw and discharged a gun into the air. 

Other bands were also bombarded with mud while performing.

Given the difficulties associated with the first Woodstock festival recreation, it was obvious (or perhaps it was simply the mud) that staging a second event would not be a good idea. 

But despite the negative publicity that Woodstock ’94 had garnered, the organizers and promoters continued on.

Upstate New York’s Rome served as the site of Woodstock 1999, which took place there. 

The area, which was primarily made of concrete and asphalt, was not a good place for a music festival, especially since the distance between the two main stages was two miles. 

A heatwave was expected to arrive from July 22 to July 25. Tickets were bought by over 400,000 persons.

Campers had little choice but to set up their tents on the asphalt because there were so few trees or places to find shade. 

In addition to preventing anyone from breaking in and later escaping, the location was completely fenced in. 

The host had not provided adequate amenities, and as a result, the restrooms and showers quickly became overcrowded in the heat.

The festival was heavily commercialized in the 1990s, despite its origins in the peace and love movement of the 1970s. 

MTV ran a $60 pay-per-view for the entire weekend as part of their sponsorship of the entire festival. 

There were numerous corporate sponsors for the four-day event, and there were ATMs and pop-up malls scattered throughout the venue, which would have been useful because participants would have lost money more quickly than Lehman Brothers during the banking meltdown. 

While patrons burned in the oppressive heat, bottled water was being sold for $4, which is the equivalent of $7 or £6 in today’s money. 

Burritos cost $10, pizza was $12, and maybe most critically, diners were charged for water.

Was Woodstock 99 Profitable?

As of August 3, the new Netflix documentary ICYMI about the pandemonium of Woodstock ’99, which was meant to replicate the calm of the first Woodstock festival in 1969, is available. 

Notably, a lot happens in the first episode, too.

Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 is a three-part documentary that explores the devastation that followed. 

There were several crimes, reports of sexual assault, a lack of clean water for attendees, a trench mouth (yep, the ailment linked to World War I), and three fatalities.

Therefore, yes, a lot of things went wrong, but the festival also made a ton of money. 

The four-day summer music festival attracted more than 400,000 participants, and with tickets costing $150, the total attendance is already in the millions of dollars. 

Hence, it becomes much more when merchants are included.

According to the New York Times, Woodstock festival founder Michael Lang passed away on January 8, 2021.

Also, According to The Sun and Celebrity Net Worth, he had a net worth of around $10 million at the time of his death. 

He originally had the concept for Woodstock while organizing the Miami Pop Festival in 1968, which included Jimi Hendrix as the headlining act. 

According to NPR, he not only worked on Woodstock ’99 but also on the first Woodstock follow-up festival in 1994 and the original festival in 1969.

Based on research from Vanity Fair, he established Just Sunshine Records after the first Woodstock and released music by Betty Davis, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Karen Dalton. 

Micheal Lang also briefly oversaw the careers of musicians including Willy DeVille, Joe Cocker, and Rickie Lee Jones.

This answers the question; was Woodstock 99 profitable?

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How much Money did Woodstock ’99 Make?

As reported by The Huffington Post, the entire production ran $38 million. 

However, the $60 million or so in revenue from sales of the tickets alone likely would have more than paid the cost of production.

According to Syracuse.com, the cost of a bottle of water, a cup of coffee, a bag of chips, or a bag of peanuts (to name a few snacks) was roughly $4 each, and the $73,000 earned by the 11 NGOs present that staffed food booths came from these items alone.

Despite the difficulty of estimating final totals, it is safe to assume that the event’s organizers made a tidy profit when it was all said and done.

Did Woodstock 99 Ever Make a Profit?

It must be mentioned that the Woodstock organizers did not make a profit for ten years.

In total, Roberts, Rosenman, Lang, and Kornfeld spent close to $3.1 million—equivalent to $15 million in today’s currency—on Woodstock, although only $1.8 million was made. 

It wasn’t until the early 1980s that Rosenman and Roberts were eventually able to pay off the last of their debt after receiving permission from Roberts’ affluent family to temporarily cover the massive costs under the condition that they were reimbursed.

Was Woodstock 99 a Success or A Failure?

Despite the fact that the big concert was a success, there were a number of problems that arose during Woodstock, including last-minute site changes, unfavorable weather, and the sheer volume of people in attendance. 

The fact that there was a lot of sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll, and rain doesn’t change the fact that Woodstock was a nonviolent festival that has earned a revered place in pop cultural history.

On Monday, August 18, as Hendrix stepped off stage, Woodstock was formally over. 

It was not much simpler to leave Woodstock than to arrive. 

As festival attendees made their way home, roads and highways soon got congested once more.

It took many days, numerous bulldozers, and thousands of dollars to complete the enormous chore of cleaning up the arena.

The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts opened its doors in 2006 on the hill where the Woodstock Music Festival was held. 

The stunning pavilion now hosts outdoor performances. Also present is a museum dedicated to the 1960s.

Several well-known performers, including those who appeared at Woodstock, have played at Bethel Woods, including Joe Cocker, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Santana, Arlo Guthrie, and Crosby Stills and Young.

Furthermore, the modest farmer who provided his land for the event, Max Yasgur, may have provided the best description of Woodstock. 

On the third day, he addressed the crowd and said, “…You’ve proven something to the world…the important thing that you’ve proven to the world is that a half a million kids, and I call you kids because I have children who are older than you, a half a million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music and God bless you for it!”

Did Woodstock Stop Making Profits After 1999?

To commemorate the festival’s 30th anniversary, Woodstock came back three times in 1999. 

The final version, meanwhile, did not enjoy the same level of popularity as its forerunners. 

A brand-new Netflix documentary is based on the disastrous Woodstock 99 event, which included fires, looting, and hundreds of people who were hurt or transported to the hospital. 

It also generated lawsuits and sexual assault claims.

The heat was a major issue for festival attendees, and three individuals died at the event. 

The event was held at a former Air Force base, where the tarmac made the already-sweltering temperatures intolerable. Many guests experienced heat exhaustion.

The scarcity of food and water was a further issue. Bottles of water cost $4 (nearly $7 with inflation), and the organizers battled with a larger audience than expected. 

Due to sewage pouring into the drinking water, some participants developed trench mouth, a condition that involves gum bleeding, swelling, pain, and ulcers.

How Much Money Was Spent on Woodstock 99?

The dates for Woodstock ’99 were July 22, 1999, through July 25, 1999, and it took place at the old Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York. 

Ironically, the site was not far from the site of the first Woodstock festival. 

Though only 186,983 tickets were originally sold, MTV revealed around a month after the event that more than 400,000 people attended the festival over the course of its four days.

According to MTV, 150,000 people showed up at the event location on the first day of Woodstock ’99, and another 70,000 people were anticipated to attend. 

There were 200,000 people there on the festival’s last day. 

MTV had not yet provided confirmation of the precise number of Woodstock ’99 tickets that were actually sold via Ticketmaster at the time of publication.

The agreement that the Woodstock ’99 organizers and the Griffiss Local Development Corporation (GLDC) made may be the cause of the disparity. 

MTV reports that the GLDC, Rome, and Oneida County were anticipating receiving $1 million to host the festival and an additional $250,000 if ticket sales exceeded 200,000.

All parties would then receive an additional $5 (per ticket) if more than 200,000 tickets were sold. 

Although it is obvious that more than 186,983 people attended Woodstock ’99, only that many tickets had really been sold as of the time the report was made.

The promoters would not have been compelled to pay the additional funds that it had promised the GLDC based on that estimate.

Notably, according to MTV, attendees at Woodstock ’99 paid between $150 and $180 for a ticket. 

For items like water and little snacks, they had to pay $4 or more. 

After all, was said and done, it is estimated that the promoters made almost twice as much money as the event’s declared $38 million production cost.

What are the Cons of Woodstock 99?

1. The Water Problem

Woodstock ’99 temporarily elevated the festival site to the third-most populous city in the state of New York with an estimated 220,000 attendees and 10,000 volunteers. 

The water supply for that city is now cut off. Water became essential due to the upper 80s to, according to some reports, the 100s in temperature range. 

The majority of festival-goers, regrettably, disregarded the advice to bring enough supplies with them. 

A $4 price sticker per bottle of water was present when individuals went to buy it.

2. The Hot Asphalt

The temperature would not have been as problematic if the late July heat had been absorbed by vegetation like it is at other festivals, but a large portion of the Griffiss Air Force Base was made of tarmac and concrete, which the sun’s rays simply bounce off of. 

Festival visitors had to journey across these steaming runways in temperatures that reached the upper 80s, plus there was a 1.5-mile walk between the festival’s two main stages. 

More than 700 people had received treatment for heat exhaustion and dehydration by the middle of the weekend, according to The Baltimore Sun. 

Large audiences gathered at the “Emerging Artists” stage and had to suffer performances by performers like Bijou Phillips just to get out of the sun because part of the only shade was coming from deactivated hangars.

3. The Repeated Chant “Show Your Tits!”

Only your neighborhood Hooters had a crowd with a higher horndog ratio than Woodstock ’99. 

Every time a woman entered the stage, whether as an emcee or a performer, they were met with cries of “Show your tits!” 

The audience chanted their request as Rosie Perez entered the stage to introduce DMX, and the actress delivered arguably the funniest and most famous statement of Woodstock ’99: Visit Blockbuster and rent Do the Right Thing for $3.99.

4. No Vacancies

Anyone hoping to get away from the oppressive heat, the riots, and the exorbitant water costs was out of luck: Months in advance of Woodstock ’99, almost every hotel room in upstate New York was reserved—but not by festival goers. 

Rooms were occupied by guests who were there for the nearby Cooperstown, New York, Baseball Hall of Fame ceremony that weekend. 

One report claims that Howard Stern, George Clinton, and Alanis Morissette had to be turned away at a hotel in Rome, New York because there were no rooms available.

5. The Woodstock website went wild

In between posting pictures of topless festival participants, the official website posted peace, love, and rock & roll. 

The fact that the Woodstock website posted pictures of women without their permission was just cruel given how often sexual assaults were during the festival. 

Even the captions, such as “Nice pair” and “Show your tits,” were offensive. Women’s organizations blasted the site’s webmaster right once, and Woodstock ’99 co-promoter John Scher branded the company’s conduct “repugnant.”

6. Rogue Police

Who keeps an eye on the watchers? Although there were only about 500 New York State Troopers and local police there, the throng far outnumbered them, the authorities were expected to have some additional help thanks to volunteer security that had been enlisted from New York City. 

However, a lot of those volunteers abruptly quit their jobs by sauntering into the audience, which left the cops terribly understaffed when things went out of control.

Conclusion

Obviously, the new Woodstock 99 was very different from the “peace and love” atmosphere of the original Woodstock in 1969. 

The festival was dubbed “the day the music died” and “one of the biggest debacles in concert history” in a 1999 piece by SFGate that examined the event. 

Perhaps that is what occurs when a festival’s central theme of love and peace is replaced with the pursuit of wealth.

References 

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