Mary Howard Ade is an integral part of the Chattanooga community as she works through the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to connect the diverse community that loves its city through its music and entertainment industries. She grew up as close to a local as you can get without being a Chattanoogan in Wildwood, GA where under the loving guidance of her parents and siblings she was exposed to motown, classical music, the blues, rock, and country music. Although she does not have an extensive background in playing music outside of a year dabbling in piano, her experience with it continued through her time at Auburn University where she worked at a local radio station as a guest DJ and curated playlists as a form of productive procrastination. Through an avid love of new music and connections through friends, she landed her first job after college with Spin Magazine in New York City and has since then worked with other creative production companies/projects before landing back in Chattanooga to work with the CVB.
Tell me more about your experience with Spin Magazine and your life in New York.
Mary Howard: When I graduated Auburn I had a degree in English and Spanish and I didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought that I was going to go back to college to get a graduate degree in English and maybe become an English professor, but I also didn’t know what else was there in the job world so one of my professors encouraged me to get a job and then re-apply for grad school. I put some feelers out because although I love Chattanooga, I knew I wanted a bigger city feel and experience. I had a friend who was working at Spin Magazine, and I sent her an email with my resume, which was basically just my grades. I flew up there for an interview and two months after I graduated Auburn I had a job in New York City at Spin Magazine. I flew up there on a Wednesday and had work that Thursday, so that first weekend was very intense because I had to work the All Points West Festival on Liberty Island.
I was there for about 2 years, doing a lot of office management, assisting the general manager, and some marketing work. It was a really great experience because magazines at that time weren’t doing that well; a lot of them were folding. But I met a lot of interesting, creative people and saw a huge influx of new music. I had editors blaring it from their computers along with sample CD’s that we couldn’t leak or share but could listen to internally. The best music education I’d ever had were my two years there. I realized while I was at Spin that even though I loved the environment and the people, I just didn’t feel like publishing was where my heart was. If you’re gonna go into it, you have to be pretty passionate about it. The husband of Spin’s photo director owned a creative production company called Cause + Effect, which I ended up working at for about four years.
This sounds dorky but people get to know what you like and people began to defer to me for advice on music, asking me what I was listening to those days and the owners of the company asked me to make playlists for the editors so that they could stay up to date with current music. A lot of times when you’re editing a commercial or promo, you need music and you don’t always have time to research, which is an important part of the job I got to contribute to. I would create playlists which we would sometimes put into our newsletters. That led to a freelance job outside of Cause + Effect with a producer who asked me if I was interested in becoming an Assistant Music Advisor on a web series, Hunting Season (warning: this series may be considered by many to be NSFW), which I did for two seasons. It was great because the music they asked for fit my aesthetic already. There was a lot of learning involved in that, meaning that at Cause + Effect I was learning how to become their Marketing Director. I had been there for a while and saw a need for it while I was there. It turned into a pretty fun and creative job.
After six years in New York, I missed the South and my family and saw that it was time to make a move so I came back home. I had been working remotely for them part time. That was my first time moving somewhere without a full time job so I wasn’t sure if I would stay in the area because I was interested in Asheville and Nashville. But when I got back to Chattanooga, I realized that it’s ok to appreciate where you’re from. And it’s changed a lot since I was young – it’s beautiful and I started to feel an energy in the nightlife and music scene that had developed since I was in high school. I decided to stay and here I am.
What is the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau?
Mary Howard: The CVB promotes Chattanooga to tourists. We are the marketing arm of the city. We try to get people to come here, spend the night, and see what Chattanooga is all about. We have a sports department that works on events like the IRONMAN, and we also have a meetings department that hosts big events and conventions that are looking for large spaces and event halls. I work for the marketing side that takes care of the website, newsletter, and social media, keeping the city and visitors up-to-date.
What do you do as a music marketer?
Mary Howard: I make sure that website content makes it to visitors going on our website, checking out our events calendar, and even checking out my weekly music blog that lists everything that’s happening in terms of festivals, nightlife, concerts, etc. A lot of what I do is music content creation and distribution. It’s also creating partnerships in town; Stratton Tingle (SoundCorps’ executive director) and I worked together with River City Company, Jazzanooga, The River City Sessions, EPB, and WUTC to host NoonTunes. It was a great way to work with everyone and have fun as we planned what day of the week to do it, what time, location, how to find artists to perform, if we needed a host, and other things. I look for opportunities like that to bring more music to Chattanooga by partnering with people like Stratton on the creation of Sidewalk Stages and with Taryn Balwinski to bring Make Music Chattanooga to life. She was amazing and I helped put it together and promote it. It’s a lot of marketing and PR for things that are already happening, and looking for new things around town.
What made you want to work here?
Mary Howard: When I moved back, I knew that I wanted to get back into music and marketing after New York. I started asking people what was going on here and slowly and surely I was pointed towards the CVB. To be completely honest, I had never worked in the tourism industry before, so I started looking into it and realized how cool it is to have an opportunity to market the city in which you live. It’s been a great way to relearn the city. When I started learning more about what the CVB does and that there was an opportunity there, they had realized that Chattanooga’s music scene was growing and they wanted someone to help promote Chattanooga as a vibrant music city.
What would you like to see Chattanooga’s music scene look like in the next five years?
Mary Howard: I think that I would like to see more of it. Right now there are really strong subcultures here; bluegrass, soul, punk, blues, jazz, indie, dancing. What makes me really happy is when I go to one of those events and it’s completely packed. But what I’d like to see is more consistent shows that have strong attendance and sell out, in the small or big venues. I would love to see more local support than what is already out there, because there’s a strong group of locals coming out to all of these shows already. I think it’s slowly starting to do that. But if you have a bunch of things happening on the same night, they tend to compete with each other for audience attendance. And more buskers! More music in the streets!
What are some upcoming local projects that you’re excited about?
Mary Howard: There’s a couple of things in the works that will be great if they work out. For now, I’m continuing to find stories and share them. Logan, our photographer, and I are doing a big music venue update so we’ll have more fresh content. I’m currently booking entertainment for the Chattanooga Marathon, which will be cool. The 75th anniversary of the Glenn Miller “Chattanooga Choo Choo” song was a few months ago, so we’re continuing the celebration by recognizing the first time it became #1 across America on December 7th and when it became the first gold record on February 17th.