At first glance, heading backstage, Caitlin Ferguson and Ramisha Sattar look like two average high school students hoping to get a glimpse of their favorite bands.
A second look reveals the duo shaking up the Dallas music scene, with 20 young writers, photographers, and artists in tow.
Ferguson and Sattar are the founders of Alt Philanthropy. They interview and photograph popular and up-and-coming pop and indie bands. Those bands sign some merchandise for Ferguson and Sattar to sell on their website. The sale runs alongside the band’s interview, and the proceeds are donated to a charity of the artist’s choice.
“We met at a concert in Seattle and became really good friends quickly. We both just have such a big passion for music,” Ferguson said. “We started out with really small bands, using Spotify to find new music and emailing them to see if they’d be interested in working with us.”
Ferguson, a Highland Park High School senior, and Sattar, a Plano West senior, have grown to interview such bands as Mowglis, Bad Suns, and Great Good Fine Ok, all of whom have more than 500,000 monthly listens on Spotify. The proceeds of signed T-shirts, Polaroids, and pins designed by Sattar have gone to the likes of Hungry for Music, Save the Children, and Planned Parenthood.
“Interviewing Declan McKenna was my best experience so far,” Sattar said. “Most of the time, it’s a bit uncomfortable when the bands and managers first realize we’re in high school. But with Declan, he’s 17, and so are we. The things he talked about, his sense of humor, it was just really easy to talk to him.”
Sattar and Ferguson, and many of their contributors, are younger than 21.
“A lot of times, we look like a bunch of teenage girls just trying to get backstage,” Ferguson said. “They think it’s a scam. We have to make sure we’re taking it really seriously, and once the band and the crew notice we’re taking it seriously, they do the same.”
For the most part, social media has been the driving factor behind Alt Philanthropy’s growth. Sattar, who also contributes her illustrations to Rookie Magazine, an online art magazine for teens, attributes their Twitter success to bands’ rabid fan bases.
“A lot of these artists have a strong following so when they post about us, and our T-shirts and stuff, the fans will follow us,” Sattar said. “Plus, the music scene in Dallas is pretty close, so you see people around that know people and know you and will help follow and promote you.” So far, Alt Philanthropy has raised a few hundred dollars, but Ferguson and Sattar have plans to grow their project far beyond Dallas as many of their contributors graduate from high school. Ferguson is heading to Nashville for college, while Sattar is staying in North Texas.
“We know people going to school all over the place,” Ferguson said. “So we’re looking forward to opening more branches, having access to more artists, and getting our name out even more.”