Ahead of its 15th anniversary, Atlanta’s A3C festival looks to expand with a focus on technology

Tech entrepreneur Paul Judge and Gathering Spot cofounder Ryan Wilson will serve as strategic investors to help the annual music festival and conference expand into tech, TV and film, and gaming

AC3 expands 15th anniversary
Ryan Wilson, Mike Walbert, and Paul Judge

Photograph courtesy of AC3

As it approaches its 15th anniversary, the All 3 Coasts festival, better known as A3C, has become a staple for music fans and industry insiders looking to see performances from their favorite artists and learn from top music executives and entrepreneurs. A3C executive director Mike Walbert has long been contemplating ways to expand and grow the Atlanta music festival and conference, and ahead of this year’s event, scheduled to take place October 8-13 at a new, soon-to-be announced location, he’s announced plans to expand the conference to focus on technology in addition to music. The organizers also hope to eventually integrate film, TV, and gaming into the festival. To do this, they’ve partnered with Paul Judge of Paul Judge Media Group (who was one of our 2018 technology Groundbreaker Award winners) and the Gathering Spot cofounder Ryan Wilson, both of whom will serve as strategic investors and have a combined majority stake in the festival.

Wilson says one of their main missions is to make A3C a “premiere conference experience” that highlights what the city has to offer and gives people yet another reason to visit.

Atlanta magazine spoke with Walbert, Judge, and Wilson about what they have planned for this year’s A3C and beyond.

What led A3C to look for new partners?
Mike Walbert: We spoke before [last year’s A3C] about where we are as a company. After the success of [last] year, we really looked internally and [realized] if we want to keep growing, produce the event we really want to produce, and make an impact in the culture and in Atlanta, it would be necessary to find some new partners. I spent six to eight weeks talking to folks in Atlanta and around New York and L.A. One of those folks was Ryan [Wilson]. He’d been involved in A3C as a speaker and as a partner. We’ve worked with him for a couple of years so there was already a mutual mission in terms of building a community in Atlanta. [We shared] a respect for Atlanta and the culture. I think our goal together is to take what A3C has done and built already and really build on top of that. [We hope to] build an amazing tech track and, in the future, build a few other really important tracks, with the goal of building the largest, most impactful cultural event, not just in Atlanta but in the United States.

You’ll start incorporating more tech programming this year. Why is that important for the growth of A3C?
Paul Judge: Look at what happens when music and tech come together. I think they’re two of the most powerful forces on earth.

I think that one of the things that is most exciting for us is that, in addition to Atlanta being a cultural capital, it’s also a tech capital. I’d argue that some of the most exciting companies that are out in this day and age are coming out of this city. What we’re doing at A3C is less of trying to create an industry that isn’t there but really shining a spotlight on great work that’s been going on in Atlanta for the last number of years.

Mike, what makes these two partners the most ideal for A3C?
Walbert: In Ryan and Paul you have two folks who are ingrained and embedded in the culture of Atlanta. [They] wear the city on their sleeves. Both have built communities in Atlanta around entrepreneurship, innovation and technology. I think the opportunity to partner with them to build this conference together kind of felt like a dream team coming together.

Can you give any hints to how this year will be different than previous years?
Walbert: I think what you’ll see this year is just a heightened experience overall, whether it’s a room of 20 people having dinner or celebrating a legacy album. We’re all focused on experience. So, whether it’s celebrating a Wu-Tang album or a chef or a comedian or a tech leader, we’re looking at how can we provide an amazing, memorable, and meaningful experience for the community and the culture.