By: Lily Moayeri
There are less than two handfuls of dance music promoters that have carried their legacy from the ‘90s to the current time. Those who have managed to do so have become some of the heaviest contenders in the now multi-billion-dollar industry. Pete Kalamoutsos is one of these strong hitters.
Based in Washington D.C., Kalamoutsos and partner Antonis Karagounis have been at this game since their college years, the former starting as a DJ and music director, the latter on the marketing and promotions side. Over the years Kalamoutsos moved away from the decks but retained his feel for the music. Coming up around the same time as D.C.’s now defunct, but much heralded Buzz, Kalamoutsos’ and Karagounis’ Glow party created its own niche bringing the underground sound to the mainstream. Among the first to bring the likes of Tiësto, Armin Van Buuren, and Ferry Corsten, since 1999, Glow—now a production company and brand as well as a multi-location party—continues to push the scene forward.
Ahead of taking the mysterious Marshmello to dinner prior to the second of his two sold-out shows in D.C. at Kalamoutsos’ and Kargounis’ Echostage, Kalamoutsos expands on all things Glow.
Echostage Partners Andre de Moya, Pete Kalamoutsos, Win Sheridan and Antonis Karagounis with Headliner Deorro (center)
To what do you attribute Glow’s longstanding success?
We’re really passionate about what we do musically. Way back when I was DJing, I had a pulse on what people wanted and I kept that. Glow was moved every couple of years to a different venue from very industrial to small to a “real” big club. D.C. has been going through this huge economic boom for the last 15 years. Places get developed and landlords move you out, so we built Echostage.
Echostage has become one of the destination venues in North America.
We saw the need for a good venue a few years ago. We built Echostage for DJs as opposed to big venues that are rock venues who do EDM shows. I traveled with Tiësto and Armin Van Buuren. I saw how it was with the days of having a club with a DJ booth and a light on the DJ being over. Everyone had visuals and production and wanted to tell stories for their audience. When we had Tiësto at DC Armory in 2012, we knew we had to build a proper venue with a stage setup and an LED setup. I took Tiësto’s rider, as it was the benchmark for any tech rider from an artist. Nobody’s would be as complicated or as demanding—in a good way. He had the best sound, the best lights, the best visuals, the best lasers, best special effects, everything. So we got that. It was our way of bringing these artists and letting them truly give their people what they wanted in terms of their art. Every night it’s something different on that stage. It’s like a festival every night.
You also have Soundcheck, which is somewhat of a stepping-stone to Echostage.
We have to build up artists. Soundcheck we have bass night on Wednesdays with Steez Promo, Glow the EDM night on Thursdays, Afterglow the underground night on Fridays. We sell hard tickets for that. For example, guys like Dzeko and Torres who have been pushed by Tiësto, they open for him at Echostage. They come to Soundcheck and play their own show, build up on their own, and then come to Echostage to co-headline, or headline. That way we’re building up an artist.
And your Moonrise Festival is one of the few festivals that happen on the East Coast.
Managers want their artists at Echostage to then move them to the big festivals in front of 40,000 people, so there’s a method to the madness. Every year we’ve doubled in size. The first year we did 12,000 per day, last year we did 24,000 per day, this year we sold out both day at 35,000 people. D.C. the weather is crazy and you have the issue of security. There are a couple of amphitheaters in the suburbs but they’re not good for EDM shows because they’re seated. Moonrise is in a horserace track.
Unlike most big promoters, you aren’t owned by a corporation and have retained your independence.
We started at a young age being taken seriously and making it as professional as possible and as corporate as possible so we were pretty much already there. But also, we own the venues as well as promote them. We’ve been approached but we’re building something and when the festivals first started picking up, we did partner with Live Nation for Identify Fest, but that’s it really.
Where do you look for new talent?
Let me give you an example: You’ll see Chainsmokers playing with Shaun Frank. They have the same agent. If this guy’s representing Chainsmokers and he represents Shaun Frank, and Chainsmokers are pushing to bring these guys on tour individually, it’s not a waste of time. The advice I give people is: Who do you relate to? Whoever you relate to, go to them, get signed by them. When they go on tour, you will open for them. They will be bringing you up.
Chainsmokers themselves are the best example of building. They used to play for me years ago to 500 people. They slowly built a fan base of college kids. Then they had the “#Selfie” song and blew up, but no one remembers that song anymore because they’re big on their own now.
What can up and coming talent do to get your attention?
You have to gain trust. You have to be the opener to the opener to the opener. I have 10 DJs right now with a given sound that I can use to open for any number of artists and we don’t have to worry about them banging it out.
I don’t decide who plays next, people decide who plays next. If you want to get yourself out there, you’ve got to make music, quality productions so people want you to come play for me.