The hardest part of touring is getting paid. Well that and having to deal with everyone’s BO in the van for weeks on end. One big pay day every few shows can really make everything go a little easier when on the road. I recently talked with Gray Fisher who told me about SALT and how they try to help bands get paid.
What is SALT’s goal? What are you trying to accomplish on campus?
SALT’s goal is to provide a way for UMass students to get involved with the DIY music scene in the Pioneer Valley, especially in Amherst and the surrounding towns like Northampton, Hadley, and Belchertown where the scene is most active. To this end, we book shows on (and sometimes off) campus, flyer for local shows and occasionally other events, collaborate with local musicians and other bookers and promoters, and provide a space for people in the local scene to get to know each other. We’re always trying to find new ways to contribute to our local community, too.
How did you get involved with SALT?
I first got involved with SALT in Fall ‘14, after attending a show that was happening at the Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse in Amherst. During the show, I got acquainted with the members of local math rock band Shakusky (SALT’s original organizers), and they started inviting me to their meetings and shows for the rest of the semester.
How has it been working with the administration? What advice can you give people at other schools if they want to do the same as you?
Working with the administration at UMass can be kind of challenging, Sometimes it’s more like we’re working around them to be honest. There’s a lot of restrictions and hoops to jump through when it comes to students booking musical events on campus and getting access to proper funding. I’ve had friends who booked at other colleges where it was as simple as someone pitching an event to whoever was in charge of student activities and then basically having money and a room thrown at them, and I’m jealous of that to no end. Generally though, the best advice I could give is to get to know the people responsible for student events and activities, make sure you’re on their good side, and to do all your booking as far in advance as possible. Booking is tough enough as it is, being a student and having to organize within the limitations that your school might present means you need to give yourself as much time and whatever resources you can to make things go right.
What’s the best way for a band or a musician to get on your radar?
Email us (firstname.lastname@example.org)! Or message our Facebook page (Students for Alternative Music – SALT, @saltumass). Just be patient about it, iIt can be hard to get back to everybody all the time but we try our best.
What sort of acts do the best? Are there any specific genres that you find are really popular?
It’s hard to say what sort of acts do the best. In my experience, the biggest shows have a lot more to do with timing and how well we’re able to promote. Bands that are locally popular do help a lot with draw though, especially when we have smaller touring bands play with them who aren’t as well known. It depends a lot on demographics too – bands that have more of a pop influence and bands that have might have local diy clout but are also popular with people outside of “the scene” tend to draw a lot more people who aren’t necessarily involved with the local music community, for example. That being said, the biggest show that SALT has had (at least that I’ve been to) was probably when we had Emperor X play in an auditorium in the Isenberg School of Management. Someone who’s trendy and popular with multiple demographics will always bring loads of people, but it’s not often that we get to have a show of that size.
Who are some of your favorite local bands and venues to work with?
We try not to play favorites with locals. I think that being a part of the local community means that everyone should get a fair consideration for shows, and that aside, there’s so many amazing musicians here it would be hard to pick! As far as venues go, the past few semesters we’ve been sticking to a couple rooms on campus. The usual room for shows is in the Agricultural Engineering building, its the largest non-auditorium classroom on campus. Aside from its size, it’s also rarely reserved by other organizations and students, so its relatively easy to book compared to some other spots. In the past, SALT has also had many of our larger shows at the Unitarian Universalist Meetinghouse in downtown Amherst. It’s a lovely room, and being off campus helps a lot with accessibility for non-students, who might not know their way around UMass or sometimes think that our on-campus shows are for students only (they aren’t; all SALT shows are all ages and open to the public).
As school gets back in session after the summer, check out UMASS Amherst’s Students For Alternative Music organization at the following locations: