Behind The Beat: Pete Kalamoutsos
I’ve recently returned from the EDMBiz Conference in Las Vegas, where the top minds in electronic dance music discussed the past, present and future of anything and everything connected to this vibrant genre of music. Vegas was both fun and informative, but my home base in Washington, D.C. also has a monumental dance music scene and a leading expert on EDM business, Pete Kalamoutsos.
Pete is a D.C. native and the Managing Partner/Owner of Echostage, Soundcheck, GLOW, Panorama Productions, Barcode & Ultrabar. Pete, along with his business partner Antonis Karagounis, have built up internationally ranked venues that have been successful in attracting top-tier talent to the District week after week. D.C. is the Capital of EDM in a large part because of Pete and Antonis, as they’ve been driving the nightlife scene for over 20 years, and have fostered a company that has formed an integral part of the social and cultural fabric of D.C. From charity concerts to food drives, Panorama Productions and GLOW are community assets that work to serve beyond the entertainment that they provide. I was honored to interview Pete in my most informative interview to date, by gaining his insights both on D.C. nightlife, and behind the scenes of operating world-class EDM businesses.
Only The Beat: I read in another interview that you got your start in the industry as a DJ. Do you ever get behind the decks nowadays just for fun?
Pete Kalamoutsos: Once in a while I’ll go behind the decks during soundcheck to mix a song or two, but not really to play a set or anything. Those days are long gone.
OTB: What are you listening to at the moment? What rising stars should we be on the lookout for this year?
Pete: I’m always listening to a lot of music, from the new hits to old tracks from groups like M83. In terms of rising stars, I would say Dzeko & Torres, as they played two great sets at Soundcheck this year. Jauz, who supported Carnage for a sold-out show at Echostage also comes to mind. Dannic is another person to look out for in the near future.
OTB: When you and Antonis Karagounis created GLOW, did you have any mentors in the music or business industry?
Pete: Antonis and I met when we were freshmen at the University of Maryland, and we connected because we share the same passion for music and nightlife. Antonis was a promoter and I was a DJ at the time. In 1999 we created GLOW, which was a weekly event that featured dance music and appealed to the international crowd in Washington that would go out to clubs. Our goal was simple: to expose the mainstream crowd to underground music. In terms of the business aspect, George Acosta was a great resource that really helped me develop the sonic identity of GLOW by providing me full access to his legendary record shop in Miami, aptly named Grooveman Records. George was also one of the first big-name DJs that we brought to D.C. Tiesto, Armin van Buuren and Ferry Corsten were all budding trance DJs out of Holland who were also early supporters of GLOW. I mixed a compilation album titled “One Night at Glow” on Tiesto’s Black Hole Recordings label that featured the works of our early supporters, residents and special guests who all contributed to our sound and identity as a brand.
OTB: You know by now, I always ask the question to DJs/producers, what are your top three tracks of all time?
Pete: This is a tough question because there’s so much great music out there. It is amazing because one minute you can be making music on your laptop and the next thing you know, you get discovered and end up on the radio while touring all across the U.S. Back in the 90s, I liked a lot of the Euro House and Freestyle music. Two tracks that I recall as some of my personal favorites are Doug Lazy’s “Let it Roll” and Louie Vega’s “French Kiss.” Classics.
OTB: Panorama Productions just celebrated the milestone of 20 years in the business and GLOW celebrated its 15-year anniversary not too long ago. What’s it like to own and manage companies that are a part of the culture in such a historic city?
Pete: GLOW is a very loyal brand with a defined EDM style that is recognized globally. Panorama Productions is all encompassing, and it really started as a party for everyone. In the late 90s, we had a weekly party called “The Spot,” which hosted different musical formats in four different rooms with 4,000 people attending. I played in the “house spot,” we had a jazz band playing in the lobby, also known as the “chill spot.” In the “retro spot,” 70s and 80s music could be heard, and we even had a “live spot” featuring different live bands, including this one band that was in high school called O.A.R.! The Panorama parties were and are still successful because they appeal to everyone. GLOW is successful because it appeals to all EDM fans.
OTB: GLOW is one of the driving forces behind Moonrise Festival coming up in August. What can we expect for this festival? How is Moonrise similar or different compared to EDC or Ultra?
Pete: GLOW is partnering with Steez Promo and Evan Weinstein for Moonrise, which is great because we each offer something different that is complementary to the other. We have a great venue at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore that’s only 30 minutes from D.C. and will feature six stages. It’s a great location and will provide for a stellar experience featuring top acts. We expect people to come from other cities like Philly and New York because of the accessibility of the location. Moonrise also plays a large role that ties into our general strategy when it comes to developing artists. An artist might get a shot to play at Soundcheck, thus entering the pipeline to eventually play at Echostage, and then keep developing to one day play for a festival crowd at Moonrise. It is a cycle that is essential to our big picture.
Moonrise Festival 2015 Aftermovie
OTB: Where do you see the dance music and nightlife industry heading in the next few years? People keep writing these articles about the supposed decline of EDM. I am not buying it, but I’d like to hear your expert opinion.
Pete: Most people have a computer and can easily get software to produce electronic music. The ease of being able to access the tools to produce this music ensures that it is not going to go away anytime soon. As an industry, we need to be innovative and work to constantly improve the overall experience. DJing and the nightlife experience has already proven to generate revenue and has saved cities like Las Vegas that benefit from pool parties during the day, and from clubs that feature top DJs every night of the week. In D.C., we are adaptive to trends in the industry and are big on being proactive. You can go to Soundcheck three or four nights a week and Echostage two nights a week and be able to see top DJs, which is something that we pride ourselves in working to create a distinct atmosphere in this city.
OTB: What advice do you have for an aspiring DJ that is trying to get a shot in the industry and open for a big name at Echostage?
Pete: You’ve got to work a lot to promote yourself. You have to consistently believe in yourself and your brand. If you’re demoing music, don’t demo other people’s music. If I want to hear Tiesto’s music, I will listen to Tiesto, so play something that is unique. If you get a shot to do an opening, make sure that you play a proper opening with sounds that are consistent for the start of the night. I would also encourage people to look to mentors, DJs and labels that work to nurture artists. For instance, Oliver Heldens might sign a track, and then bring the artist to a show to open for him. In 2016, there are a lot of DJs and producers out there, so hard work is key in creating something that is special.