August 18, 1969: Woodstock Music Festival Draws Hundreds of Thousands, Becomes Pivotal Moment in Music History

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August 18, 1969 saw the last day of a festival that brought hundreds of thousands together into a community of counterculture music.

In New York City, Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, and John Roberts proposed a festival featuring the kind of artists known to frequent the Woodstock area at the time. Woodstock Ventures was formed in January 1969 to oversee and plan the festival; the founders booked Yasgur’s dairy farm near Bethel, NY for the concert site.

Creedence Clearwater Revival became the first to sign, agreeing to play for $10,000 ($70,000 today). The highest paid act was Jimmy Hendrix at $32,000 ($223,300 today).

The venue sold 186,000 tickets for $18 each ($130 today). However, over 400,000 people showed up and the concert became free. As many as 10% of attendees who bought tickets couldn’t actually get to the festival at all because the roads had been closed due to monumental traffic. These customers had to be reimbursed for their tickets.

As the unexpected numbers grew and supplies of food dwindled, the Food For Love team raised their food prices; two concessions were burned to the ground.

Despite these less-than-ideal conditions, attendees enjoyed 32 memorable performances, including Santana, Joe Cocker and The Grateful Dead.

Woodstock cost nearly $3.1 million ($15 million today) and took in just $1.8 million.

Luckily, promoters held onto the film and recording rights and made their money back with the successful 1970 documentary film Woodstock.

Another festival was held at Woodstock in 1994; although better organized and financially successful, it was much less culturally relevant.

After Woodstock, America’s counterculture would become a focus of hope for many needing an alternative viewpoint from that of the accepted establishment. 

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