Malissa Sole was a hero of the Old Fourth Ward long before she officially named her organization "4th Ward Heroes" in May 2009. The purpose of 4thWard Heroes is two-fold: Artist advocacy by way of supporting local, up-and-coming musicians and giving back to the community and various nonprofits.
Her "day job" is at record label Slush Fund Recordings, so Sole is always immersed in the music industry, but she was previously a caseworker for runaway and homeless youth in New York and has also worked with the American Red Cross.
"You could say that I've blended the two careers a little with 4th Ward Heroes," she said.
Sole books and promotes shows in the East Atlanta Village, Old 4th Ward and Little Five Points neighborhoods. Behind-the-scenes, she helps bands (pro bono) with essentials like graphic design, recording, publicity and more through her arsenal of volunteer "heroes" with the same charitable spirit. One day, she could be helping a band get into a venue that they haven't been able to book, and the next, pulling together the resources and talent to get a band's music video shot with no budget.
"When I moved to Atlanta, I got to know a lot of people and I'd get requests like 'Can you get press photos for us?' or 'Can you help us book a show?' I started to think: I really can help them. Maybe I can call the venue to book them a show, or I'll just ask a friend who's a camera guy to help shoot a video."
Earlier this year, Star Bar let Sole take over one Thursday night a month, meaning she'd book and promote the show at the venue. Because of her intrinsic nature to give back, she took the opportunity to turn these nights into fundraisers (through a suggested donation at the door and raffles throughout the night), raising more than $5,000 for nonprofits such as the International Rescue Committee for Haïti, the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the Marcus Institute.
On Dec. 23, she held an "industry soiree" at Star Bar where the proceeds went to Covenant House of Georgia, an organization that provides shelter and services to homeless youth.
"I kept hearing about crime in Atlanta that seems to be coming from these teen kids," Sole said. "I wanted the event to benefit an organization that helps young people."
Sole rarely takes a cut of the profits when she does a show. "I pay the band first and 99% of the time, I don't take any money. They need the money to get out on the road and a million other things."
While Sole doesn't have all the resources to shoot videos, master recordings and many other "technical" aspects of the business, she knows people who do and brings them together for her cause.
"There's a way for everyone to use their skills to give back. Look at what your talents are and what you do really well," Sole said.
"You don't have to be an "amazing" graphic designer to start helping [a nonprofit]. I'm not an "amazing" promoter, but it's something I'm good at, and I'm good enough at it that I can give back to the community.
"If I could do more I would. It's a great feeling to step away from something and know that you helped someone."