It’s a safe bet that Woodstock ’94 may get more ink in the Wall Street Journal than in Rolling Stone.
And deservedly so.
If ever a rock festival was made to order for the consumption of corporate America, this is it. A slew of upcoming Pepsi ads will try to make the Woodstock Generation synonymous with the Pepsi Generation. The soft drink giant isn’t just sponsoring Woodstock, it’s printing the “official” Woodstock Guidebook--all 10 million of them. Haagen-Dazs will be churning out the official ice cream. MCI is expected to emerge as the official long-distance phone company.
And since this is the ‘90s, there’s even going to be an officially licensed Woodstock condom. In a rainbow of colors, of course.
When Woodstock ’94 takes place Aug. 13 and 14 in Saugerties, N.Y., about 50 miles from the site of the 1969 music festival, it will not be merely a nostalgic gathering aimed at bringing the baby boomers out of their condos. Sure, some of the original performers such as Santana and Joe Cocker will show up, but the addition of contemporary rock bands, including Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails, is a clear attempt to appeal to today’s younger crowd.
The festival of music and peace that wanted to change the world 25 years ago has itself been changed in 1994 by the marketing world. Tickets are $135 each--plus service charge. If you can’t make the trek, you can always plunk down $49 and watch the pay-per-view on cable TV. Or you can watch the movie. Or the CD. No word yet about the video game.
“Back in the 1960s, there was some small sphere of our lives that was still outside the marketplace--and that’s what Woodstock was all about,” said Sut Jhally, professor of communications at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. “But the marketplace seems to have triumphed over everything, including Woodstock.”
A far cry this is from the first Woodstock--to which many people hitchhiked. Travel packages to Woodstock ’94 are being booked through a toll-free number--including a $799 package from Los Angeles that includes air fare, accommodations and bus service. And while word of mouth was mostly the way the first festival was promoted, a multimedia ad campaign promoting Woodstock ’94--including a glitzy network TV ad--is scheduled to break Wednesday.
The ad, which features Generation X-ers on the road to Woodstock, is aimed at youth. Instead of Crosby, Stills and Nash, the ad features music from the Sex Pistols. The ad satirizes one baby boomer who calls Woodstock ’94 “a spiritual gathering.” The ad ends with the slogan: “Now it’s your turn. It isn’t like Woodstock, it is Woodstock.”
The ad was created by New York ad man Jeff Weiss, 40, who turned thumbs down to ads dripping with nostalgia. “The creative thrust is: We recognize our heritage, but this is a Woodstock for 1994,” said Weiss, a former Los Angeles resident. “Woodstock is still about peace and love and music, but with a little bit of punk thrown in.”
Despite all the promotion, Woodstock ’94 producers insist they have not sold out to the materialistic values that many Woodstock performers opposed 25 years ago. “We’re not out to make a killing or a fortune,” said Joel Rosenman, 51, president of Woodstock Ventures, who co-produced the first Woodstock. “And since we will only have sponsors who share our concerns for the environment, we do not expect the list will be long.”
Woodstock executives are still negotiating with a number of potential sponsors. Besides Pepsi, Haagen-Dazs and the others, the East Coast music store chain Nobody Beats the Wiz is expected to announce that it will have special Woodstock kiosks at the event and in some stores. Negotiations are also taking place with an airline, a guitar maker and a fruit juice company.
One happy note: There will be no corporate signage on the stage. But just about everything else is fair game. Pepsi, for example, has dibs on food court signage.
No single sponsor will be more closely linked to Woodstock ’94 than Pepsi. Its name will appear on most festival advertising, and the slogan “Live It. Love Pepsi” will flash across TV screens on ads to promote Woodstock ’94 ticket sales. Pepsi is even sponsoring a national “Battle of the Bands” contest, with the winner to perform at Woodstock ’94.
“Music is the language of youth, and we want to be a part of that conversation,” said Amy Sherwood, a Pepsi spokeswoman. “Our strategy is to bring the music of today to as many people as possible.”
Certainly that’s what executives at Atlantic Records have in mind. The company, which produced the original, best-selling Woodstock album, now plans to re-release the music--along with other music from Woodstock--in a set of four CDs that will retail for about $50.
“It’s a memento of that time,” said Val Azzoli, general manager at Atlantic. “To anyone who asks whether we’re cashing in, I say, ‘How can it be that we’re cashing in if people want to buy it?’ ”
Warner Bros. has remade the original Woodstock movie--with new footage--and will re-release a four-hour version of the Academy Award-winning film June 29 in Los Angeles and New York.
Unlike the original festival, which was put together with little strategic planning, Woodstock ’94 is receiving detailed logistic and financial help from a division of PolyGram Holding Inc., the global music and entertainment firm. In fact, PolyGram is a full partner in Woodstock ’94.
Few stones on the road to Woodstock ’94 have been left unturned.
At last week’s annual product licensing convention in New York, there was considerable interest in festival products, said Karen Raugust, editor of the Licensing Letter. A number of Woodstock ’94 products have been licensed, including key chains, glassware and removable tattoos.
Meanwhile, Woodstock ’94 “Peace Condoms"--complete with the Woodstock logo--will hit the market soon for $1.49, said Davin Wedel, president of Global Protection Corp., a licensee. “It is designed to play up the free-spiritedness of Woodstock,” he said.
But experts in marketing to the under-30 set say that while Woodstock ’94 will probably be a mammoth media event--and an extremely lucrative concert--it won’t necessarily be a huge hit with young people.
“Kids think of Woodstock as something queer and goofy that their parents did,” said Marian Salzman, president of New York-based BKG Youth. “It’s an historical disconnect.”
What’s more, many younger people simply can’t afford to go, said Irma Zandl, president of New York-based Zandl Group. “They view it as a major rip-off,” she said.