Chattanooga is poised trying to become a destination for music fans, and Mary Howard Ade is ready to begin telling people around the region about what the city has.
"We have new music venues, AC Entertainment has come onboard to operate the Tivoli and (Memorial) Auditorium and bring in more national acts, and we can offer this diverse experience that is new and growing," says Ade, the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau Music marketing director, the first one it's ever had.
No stranger to promoting music-related events, apps or ideas, Ade was employed at New York-based Spin magazine, where she started in administration, then moved to executive assistant, then to the business manager. From there, she helped market Spin's iPhone app, did some coordination with music licensing for TV and movies that wanted to use the Spin name or brand, and later handled artist relations/production coordination at the Bonarroo Music & Arts Festival for Spin, where she coordinated with artists who had interviews with Spin writers.
She later went to work in Cause & Effect Productions, a full-service TV & movie studio in New York, where her jobs included event planning, brand development and social outreach.
CVB President and CEO Bob Doak says his office is constantly on the lookout for ways to promote events and attractions in the region to tourists, but it also gets lots of pitches from advocates for attractions and events as well. They don't attempt to promote every idea, however.
"We do look at a lot, but we don't act on a lot," he says. "They are all good ideas, or most of them are, but we look at things long-term and big picture."
So when he hired Ade as the CVB's first music marketing director two months ago, the move represented both how far music has come in being seen as a viable attraction to the city, and how far Doak thinks it can go.
"The timing is right for this," he says.
Last year, he chaired the Entertainment portion of Mayor Andy Berke's Chattanooga Forward initiative, a collection of task forces that looked at the current state of the city in regards to sports and the outdoors, entertainment and attractions, arts, technology, housing and downtown. The initiative's goal was to look at where Chattanooga is and where it wanted to be.
Out of that came the idea of identifying entertainment districts within the city, as well as a need to bring together people involved in the local music scene, including musicians, club owners, studio owners, sound guys and promoters to talk about their issues and wishes.
Ade has been meeting with those people since taking the job and says she is encouraged by the collective energy that permeates the city. In doing these meet-and-greets, she's also been pleasantly surprised at the amount and quality of local talent already in Chattanooga.
"I think the local talent is here," she says. "The next challenge is to increase the numbers of local engagements and the size of the local audience."
Her job, however, is primarily focused on attracting out-of-towners.
"We want to see more people thinking about Chattanooga as a music destination," she says.
Doak says the idea behind the entertainment districts is not to try to create them, but to identify any that might occur naturally. For example, the area closest to the Tennessee Aquarium and the 21st Century Waterfront has over time become a place for families with businesses and restaurants that cater to them.
When the Chattanooga Choo Choo renovations are completed this spring, they will include the relocation of The Comedy Catch there from Brainerd Road, the relocation of the popular Track 29 concert venue from the back of the property to closer to the main entrance, a new 500-seat venue called The Revelry Room and the addition of a couple of new bars and restaurants.
Already in the area are restaurants Clyde's On Main and the Flying Squirrel and bowling alley/eatery Southside Social, and Doak says this entertainment district will be more geared towards adults and after-hours entertainment.
Under city regulations, clubs and venues within the entertainment districts can apply to present music that is louder and goes on longer than what the law allows.
Ade says she will be telling people around the region that they can come to the city and find a wide variety of musical styles presented by everyone from local acts to touring groups.
Having someone full-time on the CVB staff means those people and events get full-time attention, says CVB Marketing and Public Relations Director Candice Davis.
"Before, if I promoted the Chattanooga Market [to tourists], for example, I might focus on the produce and the crafts and mention the music. Now, Mary Howard will focus on the music and mention the food and crafts."
She adds that Ade can devote more attention to acts like old-time music performer Matt Downer and the shows he does at Rock City, as well as the big-name acts that play McKenzie Arena or the Tivoli Theatre.
"There weren't enough hours in the week to do everything before," Davis says.
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.