How Much the Performers Earned at the Original Woodstock

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Dig That Counterculture Cash

The 50th anniversary of Woodstock is right around the corner and, if you've ever wondered what the artists were paid to put up with traffic jams, awful weather, acres of mud, and hordes of incredibly stoned, acid-tripping hippies, here's your answer. And, bonus: You'll probably also learn something entirely new about this once-in-a-lifetime, iconic music festival that defined a generation and changed the world. For those of you who were in attendance — or at the time wished you could have joined for the three days of peace, love, and music — enjoy a welcome flashback.

Related: This Memorabilia From Woodstock Performers Sells for Thousands

Quill & The Keef Hartley Band
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Quill: $375 | The Keef Hartley Band: $500

Inflation adjusted pay (in 2019 dollars): $2,617 and $3,490
Who, you ask? Exactly — these two bands have all but faded into obscurity, and might have done so completely if it weren't for their respective Woodstock appearances. Onward, toward names and bands we all know — and love — better.

Sha Na Na

Sha Na Na: $700 (or $350)

Inflation adjusted pay: $4,886 (or $2,443)
Yes, Sha Na Na — more doo-wop than rock 'n' roll, folk, or counterculture — played Woodstock, a 12-song set, actually, just before festival closer Jimi Hendrix took the stage. The group performed "Teen Angel," "Wipe Out," and "At the Hop" — the latter with male dancers in gold lame suits hopping around the stage. If this all seems incongruous, it was. But, according to a recent Variety article, it was Hendrix himself — who saw the band shortly before Woodstock and, according to one bandmember, commented "far out, man" on their performance — who was actually responsible for Sha Na Na's Woodstock appearance. And, for the record, band member John "Jocko" Marcellino claims they were paid $350, half of what's been widely reported — and the check bounced.

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Santana: $750

Inflation adjusted pay: $5,235
One of the highest name-recognition bands on this list, Santana's paycheck was relatively abysmal when compared to others. That's likely because, though having formed the band in 1966, their first album came about two weeks after Woodstock. Still, the band's appearance there earned it instant fans, and its appearance in the documentary and a one-song inclusion on the live album release helped catapult the group to stardom.


Melanie: $750

Inflation adjusted pay: $5,235
Melanie Safka didn't have the same name recognition — or Woodstock paycheck — as Joan Baez or Janis Joplin, but at the tender age of 22, a relative unknown, she played there all the same. She even brought her mother with her, a miscalculation that she hilariously admits happened because she "thought it would be families with picnic blankets and a pastoral scene on a hillside somewhere. There'd be things for sale, and I could go shopping for arts and crafts." Despite the reality of mud, drugs, and other crazy shenanigans, she did have one more warm and fuzzy moment: Baez, whom she idolized, sent over tea to her when she heard Melanie coughing.

John Sebastian
John Sebastian by Jim McClear (CC BY-SA)

John B. Sebastian: $1,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $6,979
For those of you who don't recognize Sebastian's name, you'll likely recognize his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band, The Lovin' Spoonful. Sebastian wasn't scheduled to perform at Woodstock. He showed up as an observer, but when rain delayed Santana's set — amps couldn't be safely plugged in — festival organizers needed an acoustic stand-in, and Sebastian delivered.

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Sweetwater: $1,250

Inflation adjusted pay: $8,724
Sweetwater was supposed to open the festival but got caught stuck in traffic. The band members were eventually flown in by helicopter and performed as the third act on day one, the first non-solo artist to play. So why don't many people remember them? Lead singer Nancy Nevins, 19, was involved in a serious car accident just four months after Woodstock, resulting in a 10-day coma, brain damage, and permanently damaged vocal chords. She would eventually recover, but her musical career never did. On stage that day, her bandmates would tell the crowd that Nevins, whom many compared to Grace Slick, was "the sweet in Sweetwater."

Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker: $1,375

Inflation adjusted pay: $9,597
Now here's a name you (likely) know. Cocker, known for his somewhat-spasmodic performance style, was the second act to take the stage on Woodstock's last day. He sang 11 songs, including "Feelin' Alright" and ending with a cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends." His performance of the latter was apparently so iconic that it helped bring the increasingly listless crowd's energy back up. After Cocker left the stage, a thunderstorm raged, preventing the next act from performing for around 40 minutes.

Tim Hardin

Tim Hardin: $2,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $13,959
American folk artist Hardin played on day one of the festival, performing 10 songs, including "If I Were a Carpenter," a tune that's been recorded by many other musicians. Though he's also faded from widespread recognition — his career reportedly influenced by rampant drug use, he died of an overdose in 1980 — he's still recognized as a talented songwriter whose tracks were recorded by performers such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Rod Stewart, and Bobby Darin.


Mountain: $2,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $13,959
Don't know these guys, either? You probably would recognize the rock classic, "Mississippi Queen," a song the group didn't perform at Woodstock — it was released in 1970. Notably, Woodstock was among the first few shows Mountain played as a band. The crowd was enthusiastic, but apparently others were not: The performance didn't appear in the documentary or on volume one of the live album.

The Woodstock Effect
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The Incredible String Band: $2,250

Inflation adjusted pay: $15,704
A British psychedelic folk band sometimes known as ISB, they reportedly refused to play in the rain during their scheduled time slot and were rescheduled for the following day, when many hard rock acts were slated. The dramatic shift in genre proved to be too much for the crowd, and ISB's performance, not included in the documentary, has faded from music history's memory, much like the band did after Woodstock.

Grateful Dead
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Grateful Dead: $2,500

Inflation adjusted pay: $17,448
The Dead played on day two, taking the stage at about 10:30 at night. Alas, an iconic performance it was not. The band performed a scant five songs over 1½ hours. The performance was reportedly overly long and made sub-par by "long breaks between songs, inherently dragging tendencies, and substance induced hazes," notes website Woodstock Story. The story goes on to add: "In the recording of the set, there are about 10 minutes of drug induced banter and confusion, which resulted in a 50-minute song; too long even for The Dead." Oh, Jerry ...

Country Joe and the Fish
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Country Joe and the Fish: $2,500

Inflation adjusted pay: $17,448
Another act many might not be familiar with now, but in the late 1960s, Country Joe and the Fish were well known in the San Francisco music scene for writing counterculture-focused, psychedelic songs that were anti-war and pro-free love and recreational drug use. Lore has it the group was added to the Woodstock lineup at the last minute, chosen over Jethro Tull, who wanted to be paid more. On the festival's second day, the band played a 10-song set that, in addition to a memorable, profanity-laced cheer, included covers of two tunes popularized by Johnny Cash: "Ring of Fire" and "Tennessee Stud." Woodstock got country, y'all.

Ten Years After
Ten Years After by Deram/London Records (CC BY)

Ten Years After: $3,250

Inflation adjusted pay: $22,683
If you're thinking, "who?" you're not the only one. Fifty years after Woodstock, not too many people know who Ten Years After were unless they were fans back in the day — though most would recognize one or two of their songs, including "I'd Love to Change the World" — which, notably, the group did not play in their six-song set, because it was released two years later.

Johnny Winter
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Johnny Winter: $3,750

Inflation adjusted pay: $26,173
Winter performed eight songs in his signature energetic, blues-rock style. Though his talent is undeniable, and he is widely regarded as one of the greatest slide guitar players of all time — he's performed with Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, and many others — his fame never reached the level of some other Woodstock performers. This is probably, he says, because his manager didn't want Winter and his band to be filmed for the subsequent movie release. "Steve Paul didn't want us to be in the movie because he thought we wouldn't make any money," he wrote in his biography. "He thought it was gonna be a drag so he didn't want us to be on it. Of course, it helped a lot of people's careers. I wish I could have been in it. Later on, he admitted he f---ed up."

Related: 29 Destinations That Defined the 1960s

Ravi Shankar
Ravi Shankar by Markgoff2972 (CC BY)

Ravi Shankar: $4,500

Inflation adjusted pay: $31,407
This Indian musician and composer probably isn't as familiar to many as some other names on this list, but his music pedigree is impressive — he taught Beatle George Harrison how to play the sitar and played the instrument on the band's track, "Norwegian Wood." Though he made less than other performers, he played a mere three songs at Woodstock, on stage only for around 30 minutes. Fifteen hundred bucks per song isn't a bad cut at all.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
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Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young: $5,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $34,897
CSNY actually performed three sets at Woodstock — a nine-song acoustic set, five-song electric set, and a two-song acoustic encore — all starting at around 3 a.m. on the festival's third day. Neil Young skipped most of the acoustic set, but joined the band for the electric portion, though he refused to be filmed. In interviews since, the famously cantankerous musician has been very vocal about his ire that day. Incidentally, Young returned to the site of Woodstock in 2015 to perform at the site's Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Tickets went for $52 on up to more than $200, so we're guessing he got paid considerably more for that gig.

Arlo Guthrie
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Arlo Guthrie: $5,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $34,897
Wild-haired Guthrie took the stage at close to midnight on the festival's first day and performed a handful of songs. In between tunes, he read from the Woodstock news coverage to the audience, regaling them with lines from the stories that referenced a "sea of mud" and "the prospect of drugs," while giggling and gleefully shouting, "Dig it! Dig it!"

Richie Havens
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Richie Havens: $6,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $41,876
Folk singer-songwriter Havens kicked off the entire festival, taking the stage just after 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 15. He performed 10 songs, including one completely improvised tune, "Freedom," and covers of three Beatles' songs, "With a Little Help From My Friends" and a medley of "Strawberry Field Forever" and "Hey Jude." He probably should have been paid more, as lore has it he played for between two to three hours after musicians scheduled to play after him didn't show up on time.

The Who
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The Who: $6,250

Inflation adjusted pay: $43,621
Townshend, Daltry and the rest more than earned their paycheck. The British rock band performed a whopping 20+ songs, and were the only band interrupted by a protester. Abbie Hoffman rushed the stage right after "Pinball Wizard" and lamented over the jailing of White Panther Party member John Sinclair. While Townshend later said he agreed with Hoffman, he claimed he violated the "sanctity of the stage." Regardless, The Who finished off its set just after 6 a.m.

Canned Heat
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Canned Heat: $6,500

Inflation adjusted pay: $45,366
Who is Canned Heat, you ask? You're not alone, but in the late 1960s, the band was a staple on the hippie festival circuit, and its 7:30 p.m. Woodstock time slot might reflect that clout. You've probably heard the band's "Going Up the Country" and "On the Road Again" — not the Willie version, in case you're wondering — which were both tunes in the band's short, six-song set.

Sly and the Family Stone
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Sly and the Family Stone: $7,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $48,856
Sly and his multi-gendered, racially integrated lineup of pioneering funk-rock musicians played for less than an hour, beginning at 3:30 a.m. on day two and performing nine songs, including "Everyday People," "Dance to the Music," and "I Want to Take You Higher." If you've ever heard songs from the band's "Stand!" album, from which most of the set originated, you'd know that anyone who might have been trying to catch some shuteye that night probably wasn't getting any.

Jefferson Airplane
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Jefferson Airplane: $7,500

Inflation adjusted pay: $52,345
Grace Slick, wearing white fringe that somehow didn't get muddied up, took the stage with her band at a very bushy-tailed 8 a.m. and played a 13-song setlist — including "White Rabbit" — over nearly two hours. Slick famously referred to their stage time as the "morning maniac music" slot and, in 2014, she told Rolling Stone magazine: "We played at something like 7 in the morning. It was light. You don't play rock & roll at 7 in the morning!"

Janis Joplin
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Janis Joplin: $7,500

Inflation adjusted pay: $52,345
One of two performers who would pass away the year following Woodstock — she died one month after Jimi Hendrix of a heroin overdose — Joplin took the stage at 2 a.m. and came after Creedence Clearwater Revival and before Sly & the Family Stone. She performed 10 songs, including "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" and "Piece of My Heart." She asked the audience from the stage: "How are you out there? You're staying stoned, and you got enough water, and you got a place to sleep and everything?" The crowd roared back.

The Band
The Band by Capitol Records (CC BY)

The Band: $7,500

Inflation adjusted pay: $52,345
The five-member Canadian-American group The Band toured with Bob Dylan (who turned down playing at Woodstock) in 1965 and 1966. While the group's Woodstock performance is in the history books, its most iconic performance came about seven years later when it ended its touring career with a Winterland Ballroom performance in San Francisco. That concert included many other big names, including Dylan, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young, and was filmed and made into a film, "The Last Waltz," by none other than Martin Scorsese — who also happened to serve as assistant director and supervising editor on the Woodstock documentary.

Creedence Clearwater Revival
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Creedence Clearwater Revival: $10,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $69,794
CCR wasn't even CCR until 1967 — it was called The Blue Velvets and the Golliwogs prior to that year — so the band's Woodstock paycheck was pretty impressive. It played an 11-song set — a little less than $1,000 per song — opening with "Born on the Bayou" and encoring with "Susie Q." The group would acrimoniously disband just three years later.

Joan Baez
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Joan Baez: $10,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $69,794
Baez was the last performer to play on the festival's first day, and no doubt she was a calming influence after a chaotic day that saw tens of thousands more festivalgoers show up than were expected. The legendary Mexican-American folk singer, singing in a downpour, opened with "Oh! Happy Day" and ended with an encore of "We Shall Overcome," which both seem fitting given the festival's highs and lows.

Blood, Sweat and Tears
Blood, Sweat and Tears by Columbia Records (CC BY)

Blood, Sweat and Tears: $15,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $104,691
Another Canadian-American band on this list, Blood, Sweat and Tears played on Woodstock's third day as a second-highest paid headliner. Though they've undoubtedly not faded from music history's memory, we're relatively sure few can name more than a handful of songs by them now ("Spinning Wheel," and "You've Made Me So Very Happy" were a couple of their bigger hits). Even more crazy? Their 1968 eponymous second album won Album of the Year at the Grammys over the Beatles' Abbey Road.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix: $18,000

Inflation adjusted pay: $125,629
Not a huge surprise that Hendrix was Woodstock's highest paid performer — he was also named Rolling Stone's 1969 Performer of the Year for "creativity, electricity and balls above and beyond the call of duty," the magazine's original story said. Hendrix's Woodstock paycheck is the equivalent of a little more than $125,000 today, which is a fraction of what most modern festival performers of Hendrix's caliber get paid in 2019. For instance, it's been floated that Beyonce made more than $3 million to perform at Coachella. Hendrix was the last musician to take the Woodstock stage, played for almost two hours, and ended with a trippy, iconic version of the "Star-Spangled Banner." Just over a year later, he would die due to barbiturate-related asphyxia, which meant he never got the chance to finish and record the tune his Woodstock experience inspired.