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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Connect with Rodd Summers
Here are some of the people Rodd has worked with that stand out as being awesome in Atlanta
- Mario Maccorone and Costanza Astarita – Bazzaar, Baraonda, Enoteca Carbonari
- Mike Katz – Halo Lounge
- Govantez Lowndes – previous owner operator of Commune and The Globe in Atlanta and now Creative Czar at Modern Works.
- Jeff Myers – Top Flr
- Steven Quinn – W Hotel Buckhead
- Rachel Pryor – W Hotel downtown
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