July 22, 2017

Link Centre- Tupelo’s non-profit Community Cultivator

Link Centre - Tupelo

Link Centre - Tupelo

Over Thanksgiving, I was able to interview Melanie Deas and Rebecca Lane who head up the Link Centre in Tupelo, MS. Tupelo is a town of about 40,000 people, the birth place of Elvis Presley – king of Rock n’ Roll – my hometown, and consistently impresses me with the cultural density and talent it produces. I’ve been going to events sponsored by the Tupelo Ballet, Tupelo Symphony and Tupelo Community Theater since I was a kid and have high school friends that have had their bands featured on national TV shows and have even played at Carnegie Hall.

The Link Centre is a organization that furthers this history of cultural and community development as a “non-profit that helps bring together arts, entertainment, culture, education and health” by serving several purposes:

Hoop-elo fun

Hoop-elo fun

  1. Community Cultivator (I’m willing to share the title). They provide a training facility for senior services and art studios, sponsor events such as music classes for kids, a culinary arts program, real estate education classes, hula hooping classes (Hoop-elo), film and music series, after school programs, etc.
  2. Community Coordinator. By “linking” the efforts of other local non-profits, they help bring people together for the purpose of improving Tupelo’s cultural footprint.
  3. Multi-tenant non-profit center. The Link Centre is housed in the old Harrisburg Baptist Church where the Salvation Army and Girl Scouts also serve as anchor tenants. Additionally, they provide affordable office space for other local, non-profits and act like a non-profit incubator for the community which helps to foster collaboration opportunities.

Listen to the entire interview

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Audience

The programs organized by the Link Centre are targeted at providing value to the entire community – from infants to elders. Their independent film series has included everything from a documentary on the furniture industry to the animated version of Flatland (very cool) and generally includes someone involved with the film, such as the director, writer or producer. Typically, this attracts a subject-specific audience as well as local film makers that benefit from conversations ranging from cinematography to production. This taps into the huge film community around the Mid-South and draws an audience ranging from 20-somethings and up.

Another example of the diverse audience attracted by the Link Centre’s events is the monthly music series that features a different genre each month.¬† Typically, patrons for these events are in their 40′s and up, but there is also an appeal to a wide range of local musicians interested in collaborating with their peers.

Extending the audience even further are events like Hoop-elo that have had participants from 2 1/2 years old to 80.

Entice

Because of the diverse programs offered by the Link Centre, there is generally something for everyone. Patrons that are aware of these efforts are able to monitor upcoming events and select those that appeal to them – they look to the Link Centre as a highly localized organization that provides an ongoing stream of activities and serves as a consolidated source of local information.

Promotions

One of the challenges that accompanies a wide-ranging target audience is knowing how to reach that audience. Melanie describes the Link Centre’s efforts as shotgun marketing – they have to use a variety of efforts to be effective.

Link Centre's diabetes support event

Link Centre's diabetes support event

Community College Collaboration

The Link Centre works in conjunction with Itawamba Community College to define and promote events. ICC utilizes Link Centre’s physical space and takes on the management and promotional role of specific events through their workforce development and continuing education programs. In two years, this has led to the participation of over 700 students.

Public Displays of Activities

Hoop-elo at night

Hoop-elo at night

A guerrilla tactic used to promote the Link Centre is public displays highlighting their programs, such as Hoop-elo. Not only does the Link Centre have classes in Hula Hooping, but this group goes to various community events to show off their skill. “You take people hula hooping with light up, LED hula hoops to a concert and … people notice.” There is even an integration with the Tupelo Public School PE programs.

Synergy

The Pre-Symphony Dinner Series is an example of how Link Centre cross-promotes events for synergy. Before every symphony performance, the Culinary Arts program prepares an affordable, multi-course dinner in the same building as the event. Diners walk across the building after their meal and have reserved, VIP seating – which not only helps to promote the symphony, but the culinary arts program. In another effort, they doubled down on this strategy by hosting the dinner among a a city-wide art exhibit.

Online / Social Networking

Using social networking tools like Facebook, Myspace and Twitter is a new effort by the Link Centre, but has proven very effective. It allows them to quickly and cheaply (free) propogate information about upcoming events and offers a platform that patrons can use to provide feedback. There is still a struggle about how to most effectively use these tools and there is a limitation to the audience reach – elderly patrons frequently aren’t online – but they are happy with the experience so far.

One of the time costs for promoting online is the management of sites. New and updated event information must be posted on Tupelo.Net, Myspace, Twitter, Facebook, the Arts Commission website, etc. In fact, Rebecca has 2 pages of sites that have to be managed. Keeping all of this information current is tough, but the audience reach is worth the effort.

Email Campaigns

Historically, emails were sent from a standard email client, but this led to a 6-month backlog of updates and additions related to the mailing list. Melanie was able to resolve this issue by implementing the email campaign tool Constant Contact. Not only does Constant Contact allow individuals to manage their own subscriptions to emails, it also provides metrics about how effective these campaigns are – how many people are opening the messages, forwarding them, etc.

There is one criticism – Melanie would like some instruction on how to improve open rates. The data is great, but what do you do with it? Overall, though, it is direct, fast, inexpensive and seems effective.

Direct Mail

Direct Mail is successful for certain efforts such as reaching older patrons, fund raising and sending announcements to Symphony Dinner patrons. The general advice is: know your audience and use direct mail accordingly – and definitely use bulk mail to reduce costs.

Print

Homemade Jamz

Homemade Jamz

In cities that have higher population densities, there are numerous publications that promote local events, but in areas with less density, these publications have limited effectiveness because either they 1) don’t have suitable focus (state wide versus town/region) or 2) aren’t published in a timely manner (yearly, quarterly).

That being said, the Link Centre does do some print promotions in the local paper, especially in the free event postings section. There is also a new local publication the Link Centre is working with called ShakeMag that focuses on community activities in the Tupelo area.

Television

Melanie has had a television spot produced and was happy with the quality, but it was not clear what effect, if any, the ad had. Her opinion now is, while there might be an event in the future that seems more suitable for this type of promotion, for the time being she is avoiding it as an expensive option that is difficult to measure the success of.

Loyalty Program

The Link Centre has dabbled with a Donor Program that offers free or discounted events to donors based on their contribution amount with levels starting at $100. This program is still in its early phase so the results aren’t in yet.

PSA’s (Public Service Announcements)

Local television stations and radio stations have budgeted time for PSA’s and Melanie makes sure that the Link Centre gets its fair share. One example is being included on the Weather Channel’s crawl (the news that scrolls across the bottom of the screen).

Leverage

As always, word of mouth rules. While this is harnessed in part by the viral tools built into social networking, there are also powerful case studies of influencers spreading news to their personal networks. In one case, the mother of a home grown star of the Lawrence Welk program did a great job promoting her son’s upcoming show in Tupelo to her friends (big fans of Lawrence Welk). Word of mouth gets people in the door which creates an opportunity to turn these consumers into passionate patrons that will return again and again.

Word of mouth is also the primary way that other non-profits keep up with what their peers are doing. This is great to generate peer support of programs, but the information flow can be inefficient – you hope that relevant news makes its way to you.

Connect

People stay connected in different ways and the key is to promote in the various places that your patrons look for information. Social networks and online resources, email, direct mail, and local publications lead these efforts, but it’s important to know which are best suited for the specific information you are trying to disseminate.

Simplify

There are a couple of key ways that the Link Centre simplifies their efforts:

  • Constant Contact makes email campaigns much more effective and easier to manage.
  • Adobe’s Contribute is used to manage the Link Centre’s website and allows Melanie and Rebecca to update the site without having to rely on a web developer.
  • Paypal is used as a quick and easy way to process ticket purchases. It is a “very simple and cost effective tool” for the Link Centre to add this functionality for patrons. Very, very clever.
  • The partnership with Itawamba Community College has allowed the Link Centre to off load some of their promotional and organizational efforts.
  • Quickbooks is replacing the Link Centre’s traditional use of physical books and has made things much easier while consolidating information.

Success

The first measure of success is how many people show up for events. Beyond that, the Link Centre monitors web traffic of their site on a monthly basis and has discovered most people are focused on the events page, buying tickets and making donations. This provides Melanie guidance on where to spend time… making sure this information is up to date.

Future efforts of measuring success might include in-house surveys to find out how people discover events. This not only would provide supplemental information to metrics available from web promotions, but would help close the loop on determining the effectiveness of off line promotions like newspaper advertisements.

Words of Advice

Running an organization like the Link Centre is challenging, but don’t give up and try not to get frustrated. Cultural development is a valuable service and shouldn’t be viewed as extraneous, but as a critical part of the community.

Upcoming Events

  • December 5, 2009. Gallagher. It’s unknown if he will be using locally sourced, organic watermelons, but it should be fun nonetheless.
  • December 12, 2009. Christmas by Candlelight Symphony with Pre-symphony dinner and post-concert reception
  • January 8, 2010. Marty Stuart Concert to benefit the three anchor tenants of the Link Centre (Link Centre, Salvation Army and Girl Scouts)
  • Every Tuesday at 1PM – CPR and AED courses sponsored by the Weston Reed Foundation
  • Every Tuesday at 6PM – Hoop-elo
  • Monthly (resuming in January). Independant Film Series
  • Monthly (resuming in January). Monthly Music mix

Keep up to date with the official calendar.

Connect With Link Centre

Link Centre (Map)
1800 W. Main, Box 12
Tupelo, MS 38801
662.690.4011
f. 662.690.4012

Website: http://www.link-centre.org/
Make a Donation: http://www.link-centre.org/support.html
Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/LinkCentreTupelo
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/melaniedeas
Twitter: http://twitter.com/linkcentretup

Background

Melanie Deas

Melanie has been the Executive Director of the Link Centre for almost 3 years where she is responsible for a variety of roles, including event planning, box office management, and house management. She has a background in theater and university tour and event planning with an undergraduate focus on History and Literature (Harvard) and graduate work in Dramaturgy and Dramatic Criticism (Yale).

Rebecca Lane

Rebecca has been the Community Developer for the Link Centre since June of 2009 and supports Melanie’s role as well as spearheads Link Centre’s social media efforts. She focused on Elementary Education at Itawamba Community College and owned and operated Gum Tree Montessori and More attended by her two daughters.

Salah Ananse – DJ, producer and promoter

DJ Salah Ananse

DJ Salah Ananse

DJ Salah Ananse spins at venues around the world – from Brazil to London to Ethiopia to his home town of Atlanta. He is a DJ, producer and promoter and constantly faces the challenges of running organizations and getting butts in seats. I spent some time with him at Spice Market in the W Midtown and he shared his experience about how to be successful. For all of the details, listen to the full interview

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Promotion

Being both a DJ and promoter, Salah is constantly facing the challenge of how to deal with promotions – and has been successful through innovation. He has a diverse toolbox that includes:

Social Networking

Salah in Action

Salah in Action

“The most important thing about building your business through social networking is you want a targeted audience; you want someone that’s going to respond to what you’re giving out … unless it’s something targeted to my audience, I’m not really worried about it.”

There can be a lot of noise in social networking. When you consider Facebook’s blending of people poking you and asking you to join their mafia, the promotional message can get lost. These networks connect you to everything that is related to everyone you know and it can be difficult to focus attention on connecting to those that are interested in getting out of the house and showing up at your events. Salah breaks it down like this:

  • Myspace – He used to use MySpace, but has moved away from it.. it’s no longer that effective.
  • Facebook – Facebook is still a great way to promote. He lists his upcoming events, updates his status for more unique events, and has a group page. He recommends keeping the information fresh by including new photos, videos and and links to free music. However, his biggest complaint is that Facebook has a more passive audience. People check it occasionally and announcements can get lost in the noise of the friend feed. He’s been moving more and more to Twitter.
  • Twitter – this is where Salah sees the most opportunity. Twitter users are more likely to be monitoring their friend feed and he believes they are more active and more likely to be looking for things to do in the real world. The people that he follows and that follow him are “in a community that feeds off of each other.”

Other Technologies

DJ Salah Ananse

DJ Salah Ananse

Beyond social networking, Salah uses a number of other technologies, creating a diverse blend of connection points to his audience.

  • SMS – sending text messages should be limited to more intimate messages versus a mass broadcast. He uses this to connect to individuals that he wants to personally invite. One major thing to avoid is overloading people – he doesn’t want to hear from a DJ that is spinning on Monday and then again on Thursday – use in moderation.
  • Email campaigns – These can be very effective, but again should be used in moderation. Try to send no more than one email every 1-2 weeks and include a consolidation of everything you have going on. Don’t take advantage of your fans’ patience and wear them out.
  • RSS – rss allows subscribers to digest your information when they are ready to, is less intrusive, and still keeps people informed about what’s going on. If and when they are ready to connect to you, they have a single place they can look to find information about what’s going on without all the noise. Salah is implementing rss on his new site.

Salah is always looking at new ways to use technology as well. One idea he is actively working on is being able to extend special offers through SMS so that people can get benefits like no cover to his shows and RSVP through their phones.

The Human Touch

For some things, there is no substitute. Getting to know people on a personal level and being a great person is the first step in building an audience. People need to love your music and you. Turning your fans into friends helps to insure that people show up and builds connections that get you gigs.

Leverage

Word of mouth is “the most effective form of promotion, no matter what anyone comes up with.” This ties back into the Human Touch as well as using viral social networking tools and real world conversations. Putting something in people’s hands is also a key part of this. A fan telling him that they need a new CD because some girl stole the old one is a metric of success.

Audience

DJ Salah formal

DJ Salah formal

Salah describes his audience as ranging from 18-45 and educated. This is fertile ground for his intelligent music that blends house, soul, hip hop, salsa and Reggae. Although he does do some lounge, his patrons mostly come to him to dance. The gigs that he gets are mostly clubs, some restaurants, larger events (like opening for Dave Chapelle 8 times) and corporate events including Hennessy, Lincoln Properties and even Whole Foods.

Connect

Social networking combined with real world interaction allows Salah to keep connected to his patrons. Providing people with a great experience keeps them coming back for more.

Entice

Give people music that makes them dance and be a reliable resource for venue owners that fits with the vibe they are trying to build and draws crowds – that is the magic enticement blend.

Simplify

Salah uses the technology tools already mentioned to simplify promotions, but also has some tools of the trade to make DJ’ing easier. Most notably is Serato that allows him to perform with only his laptop in hand – critical when you are traveling internationally for a show and don’t want to drag around vinyl or CD’s. In fact, it is a prerequisite for all of the DJ’s that work for Salah.

Success

DJ Salah spinning

DJ Salah spinning

Success is fundamentally measured by how many people show up and if they are on the dance floor. Effectiveness of different promotional tools can be loosely measured by the amount of activity on the social networks, including retweets, RSVP’s to events, comments on past events, and the fan base of his Facebook group.

Final Words of Advice

Music always comes first, but DJ’s need to also be aware that they are Personalities. They need to connect on a personal level to their fans, look the part for venue owners and event organizers, and do a lot of leg work interacting with people and promoting to be successful. For promotions, it is critical to reach your target audience effectively and to respect them – connect with them on their terms and don’t beat people over the head with announcements.

Background

Salah Ananse was a child actor and actively involved in dance and promotion since he was very young. He broke into the scene with the help of his DJ friends that gave him access to gigs and he worked his way up by building strong friendships and being good at what he does. He is a DJ, producer and promoter – through his organization Soul Sessions which has worked with people like Erykah Badu and Rafael Saadiq.

Upcoming Events

Residencies

Other Events

Connect with DJ Salah

Website: www.salahananse.com
Soul Sessions: www.soulsessions.com
Twitter: www.twitter.com/salahananse
Myspace: www.myspace.com/salahananse
Salah on LinkedIn
Salah on Facebook

Shout Outs

  • Dave Chappelle – just a great guy to work with
  • Anthony David – Grammy nominated singer
  • D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik – hype man based in Atlanta
  • Sean Alvarez from swanksociety.com - great people to collaborate with. Check out Swank Society’s page and hear music that will get you through your work day or party night.
  • DJ Kwestanother great collaborator.
  • Mausiki Scales – Jazz/Afro-beat musician that Salah is collaborating with on album, due out in August
  • The Tabernacle – Salah always has a great time spinning at this venue in downtown Atlanta
  • Sugar Hill – although closed now, this was a great venue with great people
  • Jazz Cafe – the amazing venue in London is a great experience for any artist

DJ Rodd Summers – Ambience Amplifier

On the 1's and 2's at Top Flr

On the 1's and 2's at Top Flr

Like hipsters without ironic t-shirts or sundaes without Reddi-Wip topping, a great night out just isn’t complete without the right music. DJ Rodd Summers has spent over 15 years creating the soundtracks that keep heads bobbing while conversations flow.

I met Rodd at Danneman’s coffee shop in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood to talk about his experiences and see what insights he might have to offer the DJ’s and other organizations in the Community. Below is the summary, but you’re missing out if you don’t listen to 24-minute interview in its entirety

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Promotions

Rodd is a people person… and I mean he is really a people person. It seems like every time I go out, he’s there and knows everyone. If he doesn’t know someone, he’ll chat them up before the night is out. That’s how he promotes – he gets to know people and lets them know where he’s spinning … face to face.

Recently, he’s been sending out event announcements through Facebook, which has had some success, but emails and text messages are out. He’s found that people just get tired of receiving them. He’s also been considering using a publicist that can help him get the word out more effectively, but this is in its early stages.

Leverage

Rodd relies on word of mouth. He tells people where he is spinning, they tell and bring their friends and the intrinsic viral nature of Facebook helps the message spread digitally.

Audience

There seem to be two type of DJ’s – those that are centerpieces and those, like Rodd,¬† that become an integrated part of a venue’s overall experience. The same way a wine is selected to complement a meal or lighting is used to set the right mood, Rodd designs his sets to fit the atmosphere, with a big emphasis on Soul, Funk, and Jazz. When talking about his Friday and Saturday sessions at the Drink Shop in the W downtown, he says he “designs songs around the cocktails” which is what the Drink Shop is all about.

The venues that he chooses can be classified as the urban lounge scene. The demographics vary, but are generally professionals from the mid-20′s and up, people that are looking for the stage to be set to socialize. He describes his audience as people that like “intelligent music” they can listen to while chilling with friends – perfect lounge scene philosophy.

Connect

The game plan for connecting to his audience is simple:

  • Get to know people on a personal level and keep them informed about where you are spinning.
  • Have a consistent schedule so your audience knows what nights you will be performing at specific venues.
  • Connect to them by delivering the right sound for the atmosphere.

Entice

Rodd’s model for enticement is also simple – provide the sounds that help make people’s nights out perfect by amplifying the overall vibe of the venue. He places a priority on taking the pulse of the room throughout the night so he can mesh his music with the ebb and flow of the crowd.

Simplify

While he started off spinning vinyl (records), Rodd has now moved on to using CD’s which makes queuing up songs faster and greatly reduces the bulk of what he has to bring to a gig. He also has his eye on incorporating a Mac that would allow him to bring 50,000 songs to a gig versus maybe a few thousand on CD. It would also allow him to use newer tools like Ableton Live, Traktor DJ, and Serato.

Regarding the debate over vinyl versus newer technology, Rodd says, “it’s not about what you use, it’s about the music you play… that’s it.”

Success

Success is measured by the number of butts in seats, however Rodd makes a point to mention that venues need to be patient on growing their audience with a new, weekly DJ. In the same way that changing your entire menu produces results over time – as people learn about the update – a new DJ takes time to build an audience for their nights.

Final Words of Advice

Go out and meet people and talk about the music you are passionate about. Invite people out personally.

Upcoming Events

Wednesdays
Top Flr – 9PM until.
Mid-town chill with Jazz, Soul and Funk
http://www.topflr.com/
674 Myrtle St View Map
Atlanta, GA 30308
404.685.3110

Thursdays
Whiskey Blue @ The W – Buckhead – 10PM until.
Indie pop that you won’t hear on the radio
3377 Peachtree Rd. NE View Map
Atlanta, GA 30326
678.500.3100

Fridays and Saturdays
The Drink Shop @ the W – Downtown Atlanta – 9PM until
Funk, Soul, electronic, with a heavy emphasis on Jazz
45 Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard View Map
Atlanta, GA 30308
404.582.5800

Connect with Rodd Summers

Facebook: facebook.com/roddsummers

Twitter: twitter.com/RoddSummers

Shout Outs

Here are some of the people Rodd has worked with that stand out as being awesome in Atlanta

Etc…

Listen to the entire interview to hear more a lot more, including:

  • How to start out as a DJ
  • How to find gigs
  • How to get compensated
  • What to look out for

Howlies show in Atlanta

Technorati Profile

Last year at Corndogorama, there was one band that stood out above all of the other new bands I saw … the Howlies. I remember texting my music guru friend, Shyam, and telling him to check them out. I said they were a combination of surf rock, The Ramones, Apache tribal chanting and The Beatles with a ton of energy and stage presence.

The Howlies Album Cover

The Howlies Album Cover

So I went to see them at 529 in East Atlanta on Saturday. How did I find out they were playing? I saw a black and white, 8 1/2″ x 11″ flyer posted on a phone pole in Cabbagetown by a stop sign. For all of the fancy ways there are to promote, the simplist still seem to be effective. What’s more, I had never been to 529 and had to Google it. It turns out that last week I had walked right by it and thought about going in to check it out. The Howlies have a pretty good online presence, but the broader challenge remains how to find out what is going on in Atlanta without having to remember to look up specific venues and bands. I guess until I figure that out I will continue to read phone poles. For a quick reference, here is how you can find out more about the Howlies:

The show was great and you can thank me thank me when you check them out. By the way, if you are in an Atlanta band and would be up for doing a Community Cultivator interview, let me know!