Pete Kalamoutso and Tiesto in 2014 (left) and 2001 (right).
Welcome to Magnetic’s Industry Focus, a series where we highlight the major players working behind the scenes of the EDM biz. These are the folks running the record labels, representing the artists, promoting the shows and just getting it done. They may not get the shine of the DJs on stage, but they work just as hard making sure the parties are packed, the music is perfect and that the artists are where they need to be. We’ve decided to shine the light on the behind the scenes movers and shakers.
How did you start your career in the electronic music business?
I fell in love with dance music in the late 80s/early 90s. Started DJing from the age of 15. During high school I would spin at some parties and in college I had residencies in DC nightclubs. When I was a freshman in college (1994 University of Maryland) I met my current business partner, Antonis Karagounis. We would go clubbing and just have fun. He started throwing parties and I would DJ. Back then it was a hobby. But as soon as we finished school this passion quickly grew into a career. I was DJing, Antonis was doing promotions and we just clicked.
When we started Glow in 1999, it was pretty basic. I was focusing on DJing, and he was bringing in the people (no Facebook or social media back then…you had to have skills to bring people!). Our mission for Glow was to bring the underground sound mainstream.
In the beginning I was playing weekly, but then we started bringing guest DJs once a month…then twice a month…then every week. I would literally try and bring the artists who influenced me and we created “the sound” of Glow. George Acosta, Talla 2xlc, Taucher, Cosmic Gate, Tiesto, Ferry Corsten, Armin Van Buuren…etc.
After a year or two I realized that as an owner of Glow it was in the best interest of Glow for me to stop playing and focus on talent buying and marketing of Glow. It wasn’t that hard for me because even though the feeling of seeing people dancing to me DJing was great…the feeling I get from seeing people enjoy the events I put on is even greater.
Excision at Echostage
What is the best part of the business?
Best part is that I am one of the few that does what he loves. Yes, it’s stressful sometimes…but at the end of the day I get to bring in some of the best artists in the world and see people enjoying it. I am very proud of the relationships I have made both personal and in business. These relationships go hand in hand because through this business I have made amazing friends. But at the end of the day, you can’t take it for granted because you still have to deliver an amazing product to both the clubbers AND artists.
What are the biggest challenges?
Back in the day the biggest challenge was to actually GET the DJs. There was an amazing party in DC “Buzz” that had all the big guys. But we wanted to be different, and it took some convincing. After we built our reputation we were able to get pretty much whomever we wanted. The “good problem” I have is trying to fit everyone in! Programming the nights is like having a huge puzzle and you want to make sure you have all the pieces in place.
Above & Beyond at Echostage
What career advice would you recommend to someone just starting off?
DON’T BE ANNOYING. In this business when we hire interns or staff, we always have to try and figure out who is in it to party and who actually wants to work. Show initiative to get noticed. Come out at night and see how the events are run. Volunteer at night and post our events on your social media during the day and you might get hired. On one hand I don’t want a party kid, but on the other hand I don’t want someone to just show up at the office during the day and sit on his or her computer. Show me you care and you might stick around.
As the EDM industry continues to grow, what do you think the secrets to longevity in this business will be?
In our case, we came to a crossroads over 3 years ago. Antonis and I knew that the traditional “club” was done. DJs were getting bigger, productions better and customer’s expectations were higher. We also saw the festival demand was getting bigger. Doing a yearly festival was risky…but so was building Echostage and bringing 3300 people per night. Looking back I think we made a great decision to focus on Echostage (pretty much a festival every week) and not really do the festivals.
I think in EDM you are already seeing the decline of festivals. There are too many of them. A lot of times agents will pressure you to do them, but to be honest it’s better to say “no” in some of these instances. We built Echostage to be the ultimate venue, with proper production, sound, efx, bars, tables, bathrooms, smoking area and we truly believe you can’t get this experience at a festival. And judging by the patron’s feedback (voted #2 venue in USA in DJmag, #18 in world), we are doing a pretty good job of it ☺
What does electronic music mean to you?
I’m 40, so to me electronic music is everything from 80’s Pet Shop Boys, to 90’s Doug Lazy to Dubfire and Tiesto today. At the end of the day, if it’s good music then it’s good music. I hate it when people think you have to like one thing or the other. I love and respect ALL forms of electronic music.
What differentiates the EDM scene in DC from other regions of the US?
I think what makes the DC scene in general (not just EDM) different from any other city is that the economy in DC is booming and has been for the last couple of years. DC/MD/VA region is one of the biggest college markets in the country and what you have is a lot of these graduates staying in the area in both the government and private sector. In addition, Glow has been doing events in DC since 1999 and “EDM” actually has roots here. It’s funny when I hear kids tell me “I went to school in that area because of Glow or Echostage”. LOL
Check out Echostage for festival style shows and events!