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A Woodstock 99 Story: How not knowing your audience can cause literal riots

“Peace, love, and riots.” — Woodstock '99

This story is a doozy. A Woodstock-induced, riot-causing doozy of a story.


Netflix released a new documentary called Trainwreck: Woodstock '99. And boy, calling this music festival a trainwreck is going easy on what happened.

Before we get into it, lemme set this up:

The original Woodstock happened back in 1969. It was a three-day outdoor concert fueled by counterculture and hippies. 32 bands performed over the 3-day festival. More than 400,000 people—half of which were naked—attended Woodstock. And there was not a single violent outbreak throughout the 3-day festival.

Legends like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Santana, The Grateful Dead, The Who, and The Band performed.

It was a massive success. In fact, it was one of the defining moments of the 60s in American culture. It was the embodiment of hippie culture at its finest. And it made a metric fvckton of money—about $60 million minimum, which is the equivalent of $484.43 million today—even despite about half of the audience in attendance sneaking in, and getting in for free.

With such a massive success, corporate music industry folks wanted to ride the waves of Woodstock.

And so they tried…

In 1994, they tried to make another Woodstock, and it was a humiliating failure. The company who put on the event spent millions on everything — and rain sabotaged the festival. Mud was everywhere. It was inescapable. And so, most people embraced the mud. Fans rolled around in it. Green Day started a mud fight during the set. It was a messy disaster. And it didn’t make a profit.

Well, fast forward 5 years, and these corporate fat cats wanted to throw another Woodstock: This time 30 years after the original.

They were determined to do anything they could to make a profit after the humiliation that happened in Woodstock '94.

And so, they cut a lot of corners.

First, they booked Woodstock '99 at an old military airbase. Regardless of what you think of the hippie movement and the first Woodstock, anyone with two eyes can see that the military airbase doesn’t pass the vibe check for a music festival whose slogan was “peace, love, and music.”

Then, here’s where things get shady:

Determined to make a profit, the security guards letting people into the festival grounds made everyone throw out their food and water. Folks would later riot because a bottle of water was $4, or $7.11 in today’s dollars.

But as for the most egregious thing Woodstock '99 did…

They didn’t know their audience.

Here’s what I mean:

Woodstock embodied the counterculture of its time. In the 60s, this meant the hippie movement.

Woodstock '99 also embodied the counterculture of its time. In the 90s, this meant rage and violence.

Check out some of the bands who performed at Woodstock '99:


* Sheryl Crow

* Sugar Ray

* The Offspring

* Korn

* Bush (who followed Korn’s scary and borderline violent performance… and if you don’t know who Bush is, he’s a much more laid back, softer type of rock, especially compared to Korn's screaming metal music)

* Kid Rock

* Wyclef Jean

* Counting Crows

* Dave Matthews Band

* Limp Bizkit

* Rage Against The Machine

* Metallica

* Willie Nelson

* The Red Hot Chili Peppers

And more.

Notice anything unusual about this lineup?

If you’re not as big of a fan of music as I am, let me make it crystal clear:

They mixed gangster rap with soft rock and jam with metal and screamo music.

Not a good idea...

Metal music is the complete opposite of the original Woodstock’s aura. The original Woodstock preached love, happiness, and music. There was no violence. And everyone went home happier than when they arrived.

Woodstock '99’s aura oozed violence, rage, and riots. There was so much violence it looked like Rome, NY (where the festival was held) got nuked. Fires erupted everywhere. They rioted through the stage, knocking everything down before burning it. Three people died. And everyone went home angrier than when they arrived.

Why were 400,000 people so mad?

It was a perfect storm of angry and partying frat boys, corporate fat cats screwing over their audience to make profit, and rage-filled music.

Which brings me to the point:

You gotta know your audience. This is an extreme consequence of not knowing your audience, but the point stands.

The guys who put on Woodstock '99 didn’t know the bands they booked. They just got 40 of the top bands in the late 90s. In fact, a younger 20-year-old dude who was helping put on the show voiced his concern about booking metal-to-the-core bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Rage Against The Machine, and Metallica. But they ignored him — and it cost them.

Complete insanity erupted during the event. And it makes for great television too if you’re bored and don’t know what to watch.


If you need help not only understanding your audience, but understanding what makes them tick — and how you can help them conquer their problems via email, book a call here.

My emails won’t cause a riot. But they will fatten up your wallet like a witch fattening up her prey before she stews them.


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