Q’s With Coalition Entertainment’s Peter Gross: ‘Trailblazing’ To The ‘Summit’

Peter Gross
– Peter Gross

With an increasing host of music festivals and no shortage of concerts to see, there’s been a proliferation of specialized, boutique events, from the folk-heavy Pickathon in Oregon to extreme metal Psycho Las Vegas on the Strip. However, it seems more events are springing up where music is not the main attraction but a complement to the other attractions and topics on offer. 

Coalition Entertainment’s Peter Gross, whose company does talent buying and other services for events and venues including Imagine Festival in Atlanta and Empire Control Room and Parish in Austin, has been involved with The Summit Los Angeles, “The Leading Ideas Festival” for the last eight years, which has become an exclusive attraction for social, professional influencers and entrepreneurs. 

This year Nov. 8-11 Summit featured Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, SpaceX President and CEO Gwynne Shotwell, Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, and an interview with hip-hop artist and fashion mogul A$AP Rocky. On the music side, Summit featured a special collaboration from Bonobo and visual studio Strangeloop with other highlights, according to Gross, including an “insane” Preservation Hall Jazz Band Super Jam at the Ace Theatre, while Tank and the Bangas “crushed,” Bob Moses was “incredible” and A$AP Rocky’s interview was “epic.” 

With no sign of consolidation slowing down in the live music space, artists going with full national tours promoted by one company, and seemingly more artists putting on their own curated festivals, Gross and other independent entrepreneurs are finding new ways in to complement core concert-focused business. 
Pollstar: How was this year’s Summit? 
Peter Gross: It was amazing. What’s cool about Summit is that while a good amount of people come to the Summit to see the music, a lot of people want to come to every content session and fill their brains with that. Some want to get really deep on the health and wellness side, some just want to meet great people and hang out. From a music and entertainment perspective it’s really fun because the palette and offerings we put out there can be very wide and eclectic and doesn’t necessarily have to cater to the usual 18-25 music festival demo.
About 3,000 people attend The Summit, but not just anyone can come, correct?
There is a “community team” that maintains current relationships and picks new ones. They interview and vet, for lack of a better word, every single person who comes to the event. It creates for an interesting and cool event. The two basic stipulations of how we vet and curate people is No. 1, what is this person up to, what are they putting back into the world? This can be innovators or disruptors or someone really leading the charge and creating in their space. The second stipulation which really trumps the first is, “Is this just a really good person?” Are they genuine, are they someone who would you want to have dinner with on a Sunday night?

How did Imagine Festival in Atlanta go this year? 
We’re super excited about Imagine. It did about 25,000 per day this year and is a really good story of a truly grassroots, independent event now in its seventh year that has been able to sustain and maintain and continue to have a really great brand and community. Madeleine and Glenn Goodhand have been doing shows in Atlanta for 20 years, it’s fully owned and operated by them. They launched Believe Music Hall in Atlanta last year, and we also book that. Atlanta as well in the club scene is wild, and in the past few years has skyrocketed so now there’s maybe eight venues doing it, maybe even a little oversaturated to me at the moment. 
How does the festival and concert space look as a whole right now? 
The consumer’s appetite for these immersive, experiential environments especially the millennial generation, continues to grow. But at the same time you see events and music festivals canceling and it’s not even the independent ones, run by corporations that are better funded. It’s becoming so much more difficult for independents. 
To me what’s really interesting right now is the appetite for experiences. We book a lot of music but also speakers and health and wellness, and those sort of things are continuing to grow. We launched a brand called Trailblazers, a similarly privately curated, invite-only type event but a leadership community for the cannabis, hemp and CBD space. We just did our second event in August and have a third in March. The industry is skyrocketing but, to be blunt, is filled with a lot of jokers right now – we need a leadership board and a community that can really lead the charge. 
Music will always play an interesting part, but back when we started in this business, music events were the only big events out there. Now, if you look around there’s a ton of different events like Summit with speakers and other content. s