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Milwaukee's Backline program named one of the world's most innovative companies by Fast Company

Backline is getting some national recognition. The Milwaukee accelerator, which provides grants and mentorship to Milwaukee musicians, has been included on Fast Company’s prestigious annual list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for 2020.

The list honors the businesses making the most profound impact on both industry and culture. The list features 434 businesses from 39 countries, and Backline placed at #9 on the list, along with Detroit's Motown Accelerator program.

“None of this would be possible without the generous support of our donors,” said Glenn Kleiman, executive director at Radio Milwaukee. “We are so grateful for the individuals, companies and foundation that have invested in our local music community.”

Backline Program Director Enrique “Mag” Rodriguez

Conceptualized and developed by gener8tor and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee in 2018, the musician accelerator programs work with three to four artists or bands over the course of 12 weeks to help them create new work, expand their networks in the industry, access mental and financial health resources and budget the use of a $20,000 grant.

The music programs have only been in operation since 2018, but are recognized on the list alongside past winners such as Universal Music Group, Spotify, Instagram, Atlantic Records and Sonos. Backline is currently run in Milwaukee and Cleveland, and in Detroit under the “Motown Accelerator” brand.

To date, 14 artists have gone through the intensive program and fourteen more will complete the accelerator this year. At the close of 2020, the accelerators will have awarded $560,000 in grant funding to the 28 artist recipients.

Program participants have seen success across metrics. Lorde Fredd33, a Milwaukee artist, was signed to a record deal after an A&R heard his music during the Backline selection process, and another Milwaukee artist, WebsterX, will perform as direct support for Bon Iver this fall after meeting the artist’s management team through the program.

Some Backline and Motown Accelerator artists saw 15,000% to 20,000% streaming growth, with an average increase of 1,500%. Graduates have also completed a collective 108 group meetings with industry professionals from Apple Music, UMG, Warner, Paradigm, CAA, UTA, WME, Genius, Instagram, Roc-Nation and many others.

The program’s reach does not end with its accelerator participants. The public-facing workshops have been attended by over two thousand people to date, which directly correlates to the 2,178 applications that the accelerators have received.

Fast Company’s editors and writers sought out the most groundbreaking businesses on the planet and across myriad industries. They also judged nominations received through their application process.

The World’s Most Innovative Companies is Fast Company’s signature franchise and one of its most highly anticipated editorial efforts of the year. It provides both a snapshot and a road map for the future of innovation across the most dynamic sectors of the economy.

“At a time of increasing global volatility, this year’s list showcases the resilience and optimism of businesses across the world. These companies are applying creativity to solve challenges within their industries and far beyond,” said Fast Company senior editor Amy Farley, who oversaw the issue with deputy editor David Lidsky.