Name: Zack Friendly
Current location: Washington, DC
City you were born in or raised: Washington, DC
Title and Company: Founder, All Things Go
Please tell us about the concept of All Things Go: All Things Go was founded as a blog in 2006 by myself and four close friends, including Adrian Maseda, who is still my partner at ATG. We started the blog as a way to share the music we loved with our friends, and it really took off in a way that none of us expected. In 2010, we brought on two more partners—Will Suter and Stephen Vallimarescu—that form the foundation of what ATG is today. We started doing live shows in 2010, including monthly club nights at U Street Music Hall, annual showcases at SXSW, after parties, pop-up shows and eventually, the All Things Go Fall Classic music festival. Our mission is to provide our audience the opportunity to discover their favorite new artist.
Where did the idea for All Things Go come from and how did it come together in the beginning? We wanted to share our tastes with our friends and create an outlet for our dreams of being music journalists. It was founded during my senior year of high school (h/t to Sufjan Stevens for giving us the inspiration for the name!). All Things Go is now in its strongest form, with the combination of a music festival, a production house, and blog all working towards the same goals.
Could you tell us about the path that All Things Go has traveled from its inception a few years back to now? How has it grown and changed with time? When we first started, music blogs were THE go-to source for new music. This was before Spotify and Soundcloud when bloggers could get away with posting a ton of downloadable MP3s. As the market has shifted, we’ve moved along with it, from MP3 to Soundcloud to Spotify, and then from the computer screen to live shows. It’s been a challenge each step of the way, but an incredible learning experience.
Why did you decide to add music festivals to your repertoire at All Things Go? What gap were you trying to fill? For us, as four native Washingtonians, having a live music event we could call our own within the city limits was a dream of all of ours, and the Fall Classic was just the natural next step in our company’s evolution. We saw an opening here in DC, with festivals like Virgin Freefest winding down, and wanted to step in and make our own mark.
Tells us about the upcoming All Things Go Fall Classic Music Festival happening in DC, the fourth edition: We’re beyond thrilled for this year’s festival. We have expanded from our traditional one-day format to three days, which means we’ve booked three times the talent. This year, the festival will be heading back to Union Market from October 6th through 8th, with headliners including Foster The People, Young Thug, Galantis, Vince Staples, Bleachers and more. Obviously, the extra two days is a major change, but our audience can expect the same fantastic experience from years past, complete with local food vendors, entertaining on-site activations, and energetic live music.
Tell us about the curation process for your brand and festival. How do you choose the artists for each lineup? We start with the headliners and then work our way down. The hardest thing is trying to strike a balance between established and emerging artists. We obviously want the best lineup we can afford, but because we book the artists far in advance, that also means we’re trying to find the artists that we think will be bigger by the time the festival actually rolls around. We’ve also built our business on the emerging artists—the ones that start as openers at our shows then become the headliners next time around and then, ideally, they move one to headline 9:30 Club or the Fall Classic. In past years, we’ve placed bets on relatively unknown artists like Tove Lo, Kygo and Sylvan Esso, and they’ve all paid off massively.
What about the production for the festival. What sets it apart from the many others across the country? We’ve got an incredible production team at C3 Presents, who also put on Lollapalooza, ACL, Governor’s Ball, and almost every other music festival that you’ve ever heard. I think what sets the Fall Classic apart is the vibe—we’re in this unique and iconic space in DC, putting together something that feels like a cross between a block party, intimate showcase and massive festival, all within the city limits. Because of our size, curation is key, so we have focused on picking the best partners and food vendors to reflect all the things we love about DC.
How do you see the brand and the festival evolving further over time? We’re excited about the three-day format and hope that this year is a success so we can build off it.
Tell us about your background prior to co-founding All Things Go and clue us in on how that helped with starting this business: All four of us have very different professional backgrounds, which has helped us find roles within the business that best suit our skills. I currently work as a private investigator, which has absolutely nothing to do with All Things Go, but I’ve still learned about best business practices and how to grow a small business organically. Institutional knowledge about booking and event production is certainly helpful, but the truth is, you don’t know what you need to succeed until you jump into it.
Any advice for someone who wants to start their own business, brand or music festival? Set clear goals for yourself and your business, and be accountable to your team. If you’re the only employee, I guess that means being accountable to yourself. Do not EVER be afraid to ask questions. Some of the best advice I’ve received was from people in similar industries who I reached out to for help.
Best part about being an entrepreneur? What about everyday challenges? I honestly love stacking my days up with meetings and love the grind of reaching out to potential partners. Getting to talk about the Fall Classic and share my passion every day with people is part of the reason I do what I do. In terms of challenges, every day brings at least five, but coming up with creative solutions that pay off is a reward in its own.
Tell us about one misconception people have about working in the music industry and why they are wrong: Many people think that festivals can just start out of thin air and print money. These things take an intense amount of work and need to grow organically to be sustainable. The balance between budget, talent, ticket cost, venue, everything—it requires trial and error, hustle and plenty of luck each year.
Is there anything in particular that you personally are aiming to achieve in the music industry? While we’d love for the Fall Classic to continue to grow and become one of the premieres East Coast festivals, we want to make sure that we continue to serve the DC music community and give Washingtonians the music fix they crave without losing our intimate vibe.
Dream act to perform at one of your festivals? Chance the Rapper, Daft Punk, Bon Iver
Artist that’s on repeat: Sylvan Esso
Separate from your own, any festivals you don’t miss each year? Lollapalooza, SXSW, Broccoli City Festival
How do you find new music and artists? Nowadays, I mostly rely on Spotify, our team of writers at ATG and the few music blogs I still follow: Consequence of Sound, Disco Naivete and a few others.
Since you live in the nation’s capital, give us your top 3 recommendations and tell us why we shouldn’t miss them on our next trip:
- Red Hen: It’s not particularly good for my waistline, but I can’t stop going to Red Hen. Normally, I avoid Italian restaurants as I can make most of the dishes at home, but their Cacio e Pepe pasta and—well, everything on the menu is perfect.
- The Jefferson and FDR Memorials at night are perfect for taking out-of-towners to after a nice dinner. These two monuments on the Tidal Basin are perfect for nighttime viewing, as the crowds are gone and all that’s left is the light of the city and the staggering gravity of the sites.
- Maketto: Not only are they a vendor at the festival, they’re also a bar, restaurant, cafe, retail store and so much more. We love everything Erik Bruner-Yang does.