The journey for young artists in the music industry is often full of uncertainty.
Roger Brown, the former president of Berklee College of Music, understands this struggle all too well. Determined to make a difference, Brown founded the national nonprofit Salt Lick Incubator in 2022 to support aspiring musicians in the early stages of their careers.
“It's a struggle being a young artist. You're rejected most of the time. You don't know if it's ever going to happen for you,” Brown said on GBH's Boston Public Radio.
The organization's mission was inspired by Brown’s father, who grew up on a farm in Georgia. The animals would have salt licks, a “thing that nourishes the animals, and it brings them together in community.”
Brown saw this as a fitting model for his project, “We're focused on very song-driven music, Americana roots, neo-soul R&B music that I think evoke that idea of coming together and being part of a community.”
Salt Lick offers grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000, mentorship, content creation opportunities and more. It also offers writing retreats to help artists in their craft and encourage them to do their best.
“So we have a theory that there is so much music pouring into streaming platforms like Spotify every day that a young artist needs to lead with the best possible songs. Not just good songs, but great songs.”
Liza Levy, president of Salt Lick Incubator, explained that there was a grant application process that any unsigned artist can apply for.
"We feel really fortunate to be able to partner with artists like this and have just their best interest in mind across the board. Right? Because if you're a manager, if you're a label, if you're an agent, you know you have certain numbers that you have to hit," said Levy, who formerly worked at Universal Music. "For us, success is just if the artist is in a better place in their career than when they first came to us. Yeah, which so far has been the key."
Brown emphasized the organization's commitment to diversity, reaching out to artists in rural areas who may lack the opportunities available in big cities. “We feel like we're kind of bringing them into some of the experiences that a Berklee student might have.”
While the nonprofit has helped musical artists all across the country, local talent from Massachusetts have seen great success.
"My wife asked me what has been one of the peak experiences of Salt Lick," Brown said, "and it was driving to the Troubadour in LA for a sold-out show by Tiny Habits, performing the music from their new EP that Salt Lick helped support."