There are many methods that upstart organizers use for attracting patrons. They use flyers and coupons and passes galore but it’s never easy, even with all the networking websites at their disposal today, it still takes some magic to get cash-strapped people into the club. The Shore Alternative guys have found magic in the form of an earnest and musically starved scene down at the end of the Ocean Ave. strip. Their place of business is The Wonder Bar and let me tell ya, business is booming.
Led by Billy O’Brien aka Million Dolla Bill and program director for 105.7 The Hawk Greg Perillo, S*ALT has seen a huge upswing in popularity. Built on the same theory of success as the ‘80s label Factory Records, S*ALT is doing grassroots well. As many typical success stories go, their first six months were a crap shoot and no one wanted anything to do with them, now sponsorship requests are coming in fast and furious and things show no sign of slowing down.
One thing I noticed about the S*ALT night was that the hipster clans and drama queens often associated with local music were absent and in their place was a group of laid back people and a solid grouping of bands hailing from all over the continent.
Charged with a true passion, you could see the S*ALT guys running around, shaking hands, keeping an eye out and truly enjoying what they do. They didn’t hide backstage and wait to count money; they were out in the crowd. That vibe is infectious and I could sense that the style of their show is well ahead of the curve.
Boasting one of the most diverse booking policies in the city—matter of fact, the only thing the acts have in common is their quality—the bands are picked less on draw and more on appeal as developmental acts that have something to offer. Local mixed with International (tonight’s outstanding band Rubik was from Finland) works well and even the Wonder Bar sound (infamous for being hit or miss) was awesome.
I spoke with Shore Alternative’s Billy O’Brien about the origins and formulas of this great Tuesday night series.
So how did you come up with this cool idea?
We started Shore Alternative when all the radio stations went top 40 and from there we evolved into doing live shows. As things progressed I had the opportunity to meet with the developer, Madison Marquette, who asked us in to see if we wanted to do something at the Wonderbar. So we sat down and I said I’ll do a low-dough door show and I’ll give it to the bands and they said ok. We started putting theses packages together in June and it just started going so well that we’ve just continued.
What kind of feedback have you been getting on S*ALT?
Feedback comes in the form of 100-150 people every week and that’s a growing number. Record labels are starting to hear about the show and it’s interesting how word of mouth can perpetuate things and how it’s so much more effective than other promo. And now I have people coming to me with all these bands that are unbelievable and are starting to build followings so we have been able to diversify ourselves as a developing company more than just radio because were actually developing bands in NJ besides just the local scene. Is the focus of S*ALT going national?
The local scene is the number one focus but being able to bring bands from other markets enables us to build a network throughout the country. We want every local band to reach out to us. One of the coolest things we do is use a correct formula for the band by tying them into the radio shows (they have two shows at 105.7 The Hawk and 94.3 The Point courtesy of Perillos building the S*ALT through Millennium radio). If things go well and everyone loves them we put them into rotation and turn them into a power artist.
What makes you different than the typical NJ promoter?
People don’t believe in grassroots development anymore, they think you can just get tickets sold, slap shit together and it’s going to happen through numbers. That business model is dead. If you build things right with good intentions and truly believe in what you’re doing, people will come around to that feeling. And the proof is in the fact that the crowds are strong. They’re hungry for music. Its also not like they just come for one band and then leave (a major NJ problem) they are here looking for new music and a place to belong. We’re keeping things true and organic. We’re all musicians and musicians run S*ALT. Those other guys play calculators, we play fucking guitars.