Woodstock 99 earned the nickname of “Profitstock” for the festival aimed at peace, love and profit, as told on the Netflix docuseries, “Trainwreck.” Organizer Michael Lang recently died with a net worth of around $10 million.
Lang and other organizers were attempting to cut costs after a financially disastrous 1994 Woodstock reboot, in which more than half the attendees were gate crashers. To help ramp up security and cut down the possibility of gate crashers, organizers decide to hold the festival at a decommissioned air force base in Rome, New York called Griffiss Air Force Base.
Interviewees on the three-part documentary series said the bunkers and concrete did not exactly scream “peace and love,” but the setting also proved dangerous for festivalgoers looking for shade on days where the temperatures were exceeding 100 degrees. One person, David DeRosia, died from a heat-related illness.
Here’s what you need to know:
Woodstock 99 Cost $38 Million to Produce & 400,000 Attendees Paid $150 for Tickets
The Huffington Post reported in 2014 that Woodstock 99’s production costs were $38 million, and that there were 400,000 festivalgoers who paid $150 for tickets. That means organizers raked in $60 million on ticket costs for a profit margin of $22 million.
The San Francisco Gate reported in 1999 that the looting, rioting and vandalism cost “millions of dollars.” It was not clear from the article who was footing that bill.
The Huffington Post reported there were limited supplies of food and water, and people waiting for free water smashed pipes on the fountains, creating a mud pit.
The documentary said water systems had more problems, and bacteria was found in nearly every test completed on the water at the festival by the time it was drawing to a close. Some people even contracted trench mouth, a disease that has nearly been eradicated in the modern day. It is caused by excessive bacteria in the mouth.
Food & Beverage Distributors Were Accused of Price Gouging Concertgoers
It’s common knowledge that food and drinks cost more at an event than they would at a restaurant or a grocery store, but “Trainwreck” accused vendors of excessive price gouging at Woodstock 99. Organizers deferred blame to vendors who set the prices, saying they hired contractors to cut their own costs.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 1999 that bottles of water were being sold for $4, as were pretzels. An inflation calculator powered by Consumer Price Index data says that same cost today would be more than $7.
According to Syracuse.com, a cup of coffee, a bag of potato chips or peanuts also cost about $4 apiece. The Huffington Post reported single-serve pizzas cost $12, which would be about $12.34 today. Food booths made about $73,000, according Syracuse.com.
The San Francisco Chronicle article cast most of the blame not on organizers, but on some of the performers who the article accused of “inciting the riots.”
“Obviously, these are different eras with different Zeitgeists,” the article said, contrasting Woodstock 99 with the original Woodstock festival. “And no one entity is at fault. Promoters perhaps waited too long to call law enforcement. Vendors probably were greedy, charging $4 for bottled water and $4 for pretzels. And in any crowd of 250,000 there will be some ‘bad apples,’ as promoters termed the rioters. But if there’s blame to be placed for inciting the riots, it’s on the bands themselves.”
Of course, the organizers were ultimately responsible for that lineup. The documentarians addressed the choice of performers, and Lee Rosenblatt, who was 22 at the time, said he was ignored when he questioned the lineup at a meeting.