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Woodstock Not a Big Money-Maker For Everybody

January 1, 1995

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) _ Woodstock didn’t bring the windfall everyone in the area was hoping.

Four months after the big concert made household names of ``mud people″ and Nine Inch Nails, the legal wrangling over money has begun. The town of Saugerties, where the event was held, is suing promoters and a group of disgruntled vendors is considering doing the same.

While some are disappointed that Woodstock didn’t make them rich, others are happy with what they’ve got and consider the long-range benefits to the Hudson Valley area incalculable.

``We probably got over one million dollars,″ Daniel Alfonso, chairman of the Ulster County Legislature, said about the county’s take. ``I would have liked it to be two million, it’s better than one, but at least a million is better than nothing.″

Woodstock Ventures and Polygram Diversified Entertainment, the promotion team behind the August festival, hasn’t said how much money it made.

The full accounting may be up to a year away, once sales of subsidiary products like the compact disc, book and film are figured in, said Woodstock Ventures spokeswoman Crystal Zevon.

The promoters haven’t even said how many tickets were sold. The latest estimate is about 163,000 of the 250,000 tickets available. At least as many gatecrashers as paying customers attended, authorities say.

For Ulster County, Saugerties and the state of New York, profits came from negotiated deals with the promoters and sales tax revenue.

In return for permission to hold the concert, promoters agreed to give Saugerties a $5.05 cut of each $135 ticket sold. The town has already received just over $750,000, or the proceeds from about 150,000 tickets.

But Saugerties has sued the promoters, saying a breakdown in security prevented the sale of even more tickets. The town wants a state court to order a total payment of $1.26 million, or what Saugerties would have received if the concert sold out.

Ulster County received $1.40 per ticket and a portion of the sales tax revenue. But collection of sales taxes at the concert was made more difficult because a scrip system used to keep track of sales fell apart and many vendors just dealt in cash. Some vendors complained their booths were overrun and goods were stolen.

A total of $529,644 in taxes was collected at the site, said spokesman Karl Felsen of the state tax department. Ulster County’s share was $250,957 and the state gets the rest, he said.

Felsen said the state purposely didn’t try to let expectations get too high, and only broadly estimated that it would get between $200,000 and $1 million in revenue.

But Ulster County Treasurer Lewis Kirschner, said, ``I think we got shafted.″ The county, however, has no plans to sue.

Michael Lang, partner in Woodstock Ventures, conceded that sales tax revenues at the show were lower than expected. But he said county officials should consider the hundreds of fans who bought beer and food at stores near the site and carted it in.

Lang said officials should be thrilled, not angry, about what they got.

``Everything that we promised, we delivered,″ he said. ``I don’t know on what basis they could be unhappy.″

Several former Woodstock vendors have banded together and hired a lawyer to press their case. Most vendors lost money, with the losses totaling more than $1 million, said David Smythe, who sold natural foods at the festival.

Many vendors had goods stolen, lost business because of filthy conditions at the festival and were offered little protection from unlicensed operators who took sales away, said Smythe, a member of the Woodstock Festival Vendors Alliance.

``To me it sounds like they wanted to make more money than they actually did,″ Lang said. ``That’s common. I spoke to a lot of vendors who made a lot of money ... Who knows? I would have liked to have made more money, too. I don’t think there’s much of a case here.″

Music may be heard on the concert site as early as next summer. Lang and other officials are moving ahead with a plan to create a permanent performing arts center there.

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