How Much Were Woodstock Musicians Paid?

A viral list of the musicians' "salaries" for performing at the 1969 music festival has circulated online for years.

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how much were woodstock performers paid?
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Since at least 2018, an image has circulated on social media alongside text that reports it shows the payment or “salaries” earned by musicians who played the legendary Woodstock music festival in 1969. The image circulating on social media looks like this:

Text, Page, Menu

The image had Snopes readers asking if the dollar amounts are accurate. From what we’ve been able to discern, it appears that they are, or are at least close to accurate.

Money magazine reported in 2019, the year of the festival’s 50th anniversary, that the amounts cited in the widely-circulated list are “generally accepted” to be true, and also noted that the list originated in an “old story in Variety,” the entertainment news outlet. Adding to the the credibility of the list, data journalism site Priceonomics reached out to Robin E. Green, operator of the Woodstock Museum at New York’s Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, who told the publication that “this information looks accurate.”

The full list, which can be viewed in the Priceonomics story, omits two acts — Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Paul Sumner. Otherwise, it shows that the festival’s headliner, Jimi Hendrix, who played a now-iconic rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, earned top dollar, with a $18,000 payment that would equate to just over $141,000 in 2022 (accounting for inflation over time).

We reached out to both the Woodstock Museum and Variety in hopes of locating the original story containing the list of payments, but have not yet heard back from either. We will update this story if we do.

Woodstock attracted a massive crowd of 400,000 people and would go on to become a cultural event that captured the zeitgeist of the Baby Boomer generation’s counterculture movement, taking place in Bethel, New York, southwest of the town of Woodstock, Aug. 15-18, 1969. The festival not only symbolized the “peace and love” ethos of the generation, but also “confirmed that rock & roll had entered the mainstream,” according to Rolling Stone.

Despite its reputation as a cultural landmark for the hippie/flower child movement, the festival had more than its fair share of practical difficulties, including being an all-around muddy, chaotic affair that, at the time, was a financial boondoggle for the organizers. Money magazine reported:

Organizers behind the legendary music festival in upstate New York, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this summer, said they wound up $1.3 million in debt after the historic 1969 event—roughly $9 million in today’s dollars. But they eventually broke even years later thanks to album and movie ticket sales.

Aside from mud, sanitation, and food problems, organizers didn’t fence off the concert grounds properly, meaning many attendees snuck in without paying the entrance fee. Thus there was less money on hand to pay performers.

In a 2019 interview with The New York Times commemorating the festival’s 50th anniversary, The Who’s Roger Daltrey said peace and love went out the window backstage, at least for him.

“Woodstock wasn’t peace and love,” Daltrey stated. “There was an awful lot of shouting and screaming going on. By the time it all ended, the worst sides of our nature had come out. People were screaming at the promoters, people were screaming to get paid. We had to get paid, or we couldn’t get back home.”

Sources:

“Find Out How Much Each Artist Was Paid At Woodstock In 1969.” L4LM, 21 Apr. 2019, https://liveforlivemusic.com/news/find-out-how-much-each-artist-was-paid-at-woodstock/.

“Here’s How Much Woodstock Performers Got Paid 50 Years Ago — and Who’s the Richest Star Now.” Money, https://money.com/woodstock-1969-bands-richest-how-much-paid/. Accessed 14 Apr. 2022.

“How Much Did the Musicians of Woodstock Get Paid?” Priceonomics, 12 Mar. 2015, https://priceonomics.com/how-much-did-the-musicians-of-woodstock-get-paid/.

Stone, Rolling. “Remembering Woodstock: Why the 1969 Festival Still Resonates.” Rolling Stone, 1 Aug. 2019, https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/woodstock-remembered-video-country-joe-david-fricke-greil-marcus-866139/.

Tannenbaum, Rob. “The Who’s Roger Daltrey Is Not Nostalgic for Woodstock.” The New York Times, 7 Aug. 2019. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/07/arts/music/roger-daltrey-who-woodstock.html.