The music industry has been heavily critiqued in the past few years; asking for more representation and respect for womxn artists, Sarah Armiento heard the call. Deciding to be a part of the change, as an artist, manager and record label, she is a triple threat and here to make space for those who need it most. Graciously giving us 7 minutes of her time, we had a lovely virtual conversation leaving us feeling refreshed about the musical future:
1. In the less than two short years of being founded, you’ve managed artists, promoted shows, booked tours and finally became a record label. You also have your own personal music background, playing bass in the group The Kommenden. How has the shift of roles from musician to manager/label been for you?
It was through booking shows that I first got involved with the industry at a DIY spot and then over to Diving Bell - my heart is really in this role of booker/promoter so once shows get rolling again I look forward to incorporating fest/show promotions into this new Hot Tramp Records venture. And then The Kommenden came around the same time as I launched Hot Tramp in 2019. I think because most of the people I surround myself with happen to be musicians I’ve always run my company from more of an artist rather than industry perspective so being in a band myself didn’t really change much in terms of how I do business. One of the things I actually love about being in The Kommenden is that it gives me something within the music world that is fully outside of Hot Tramp - there are very few moments where my mind isn’t fretting/planning/pondering tramp things and being slightly terrified on stage requires full focus haha so it allows me this escape which I very much miss. We will be playing together again soon though since NEW MUSIC IS COMING.
2. You worked in the DIY music scene and with independent venues and have been really involved in bringing in a diverse musical program to the scene even before starting your record label. What were your favourite things about working with these independent types of venues?
Working at these venues is what got me really excited about the industry. It’s unlikely that there would be a Hot Tramp today had I not walked into that first DIY spot that I ended up doing the booking for. Working there and being a part of that community energized me and I guess solidified my path, I knew that it was within this world that I wanted to grow. What I love most about these independent spaces is that they are sooo centered around community and when you have a whole community involved and active in a space, your programming just naturally opens up since you are more personally connected to everyone. When two of the owners then made the move to open Diving Bell I was thrilled to be involved and I think we were really effective in carrying over that DIY feel to the new space.
3. The name of your label gives off such a powerful purposeful energy. What is the meaning for you behind the name Hot Tramp?
Thank you! It’s strange, a lot of folks when starting a business struggle with the name + logo but for me I think I knew my company name and logo before I even knew what my company was haha. And it comes firstly from a David Bowie song - I listened to a loooot of bowie when I was younger. But then secondly, like many words ‘tramp’ while not defined as such, changed in popular use to act as an insult directed at women which is silly so I figured I might as well take it back and use it to empower women rather than shame them.
4. Hot Tramp focuses exclusively on womxn artists; amazing because we truly need more of that type of support in the industry. How are you working to bring more opportunities to marginalized artists?
My focus on womxn artists started pretty naturally as I just so happened to surround myself with incredibly talented and inspiring womxn and it was through those relationships that I felt motivated to start Hot Tramp. I think what’s pretty key to bringing in opportunities to marginalized artists is getting more womxn & more BIPOC folks industry-side. Once that opens up, I believe artist opportunities will too. As for my part I am sooooo open and willing to help new entrants into the industry as best I can. I want more new labels, promoters, bookers, ect. to come out of this industry reset that the pandemic is causing. I think now more than ever is a good time to change it up since the reality is that this pandemic has shook the industry HARD which has in turn dusted off some old cobwebs opening up space where there may not have been otherwise.
5. In your experience, what more does the industry need to bring to the table in terms of equal treatment? Do you think we will see a radical change in the industry sooner than later?
Well from my experience I guess it’s just what everyone already knows - the industry-side of things are very white and very male so I think if we want more inclusivity and equal treatment that needs to be changed up. And in terms of radical change happening sooner than later, I mean as mentioned above we are now in a moment where the industry as we knew it is in shambles SO if this time is used right - torches are passed, newcomers are energized, then yes I think change could happen sooner than perhaps otherwise would have been possible sans-pandemic. HOPEFULLY we will get some positive growth and change out of this mess we all find ourselves in.
6. Throwing Hot Tramp Festival, a femme-fronted yearly music festival held in Montreal, must have been a breath of fresh air. What was the most difficult part of putting that new yearly festival together? That being said, what were your proudest moments?
Well it’s hard for me to see any difficulties now since I am mourning live music and thus romanticizing every show that I ever stepped foot in or planned BUT there were definitely some chaotic moments. I planned and booked most of it while I was on the road with Janette touring the US so a lot was done from the backseat of a car. And then in the music industry when you are just starting out the limitations are usually the same - it’s the money. I was lucky to have secured decent sponsors quickly but festivals are expensive and definitely a risk. I ended up breaking even which felt like a success but there were stress moments waiting for sponsorship payments where I thought I could be in some trouble. So I guess all that to say the most difficult part of planning was the financial side - curating, organizing, promoting, that is all the fun part but then it’s the other stuff that can be scary, especially when it’s all on one person BUT thankfully it alllll worked out.
And I’d say the proudest part for me besides being able to pay everyone fairly sans-debt was the feedback from the community - I felt really supported and got the vibe that people were enjoying themselves which I guess is ultimately the point. Initially, I had the plan to grow the festival incrementally each year, but now I do feel a bit of a loss of momentum with having to cancel the 2020 edition and not knowing for sure what 2021 will look like. I would looove to do another one soon but ya I’d say it’s TBD at this point.
7. Finally, does Hot Tramp have any advice to give to aspiring musicians?
I would say get out there - use your channels and your networks to share your music. I know I run a label but like now more than ever you absolutely do not need one. What a label helps you with, above all other things, is money and I have a feeling there isn’t much of that right now in the industry and there is probably a huge backlog of pushed releases that labels are preoccupied with so you might as well just DIY it. Play around with livestreams - you also no longer need the big agent to get your music heard at shows - you can take it into your own hands and get creative with online performances. Bandcamp has that new livestream tool and you can also try teaming up with local brands, venues, or publications to host on their channels, which can help you directly hit folks that you think would be interested in your music. Of course, this open access to release and promote via bandcamp, livestreams, social media, ect., means there is added competition BUT what it does is allow you to put out your music on your own terms so I’d say go for it. And I’m always around if you have any questions, I’m still learning but I’m always down to try and be helpful.