Gener8tor Picks Four Artists for First Class of Music Accelerator

In the five-plus weeks since a new music “accelerator” program for Milwaukee-area artists kicked off, the four participating artists have been traveling to places like London and Los Angeles to visit recording studios and meet with industry leaders, according to the program’s organizers.

The program, called Backline, is a joint venture between 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and Gener8tor, an organization based in the city that runs training programs for—and invests in—startup companies. Backline participants will each receive a $20,000 grant, as well as mentorship from leaders in the recording industry throughout the 12-week program.

The two organizations recently unveiled the musicians in Backline’s inaugural session, which began on Aug. 3. They are: soul artist Lex Allen; electronic dance music producer Crystal Knives; Abby Jeanne, a songwriter, singer, and producer; and Zed Kenzo, an alternative hip hop/rap artist.

Gener8tor and 88Nine created Backline to help more artists from the Milwaukee area advance their careers in hopes of hitting it big. Another goal is to invigorate the local music scene, the organizations said earlier this year.

The four musicians in the first Backline cohort were chosen from 340 applicants, according to a press release. Twenty finalists auditioned by coming to recording studios in Milwaukee and performing or producing music there. Five judges, including a Universal Music Publishing Group talent scout and Chad Roper, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and producer, assisted Backline’s organizers with making final selections.

During the first month of the program, participants visited studios in other U.S. cities, and abroad, according to the release.

Between now and when the program concludes in late November, participants will continue to meet with entertainment industry leaders and mentors from around the country. The four artists will each develop a detailed list of things they plan to accomplish in the 12 months after the program ends.

The current Backline class will culminate with a “showcase performance” on Nov. 16 at 88Nine’s performance space, the station and Gener8tor said.

The two organizations said they plan to run two Backline accelerator programs in Milwaukee in 2019.

Time will tell whether any of the artists in Backline’s current or future sessions catch their big break during the course of a program, or afterwards. But Gener8tor, which has invested in and worked with startups in industries as diverse as healthcare, apparel, and food delivery, appears to want to move deeper into arts and entertainment. In late August, the organization said it was creating a new program in Los Angeles for music tech startups, which Gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues said is being run independently of Backline.

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