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Introducing Milwaukee's first four Backline artists

Back in March, we announced Backline—a program we created in partnership with gener8tor to take a start-up accelerator approach to growing Milwaukee’s music scene.

We designed the program to be a grant and educational initiative to help Milwaukee-area musicians break out by equipping them with intensive music-industry mentorship and a grant of $20,000 each to boost their careers.

Backline received 340 applications from Milwaukee area musicians, bands and producers for the 2018 summer accelerator—confirming that Milwaukee is home to many talented musicians. Five nationally recognized music-industry professionals from outside of Milwaukee interviewed the finalists and narrowed them down to select these four artists to invite into the first Backline cohort.
The judges picking the Backline artists were: Lucas Keller, president and founder of Milk & Honey artist management agency, Jim McGuinn, program director of The Current radio station in Minneapolis, Chad “C-Note” Roper, a Grammy-nominated vocal producer, songwriter and engineer, James Supreme, manager and A&R with Universal Music Publishing Group and Jessica Weber, owner and founder of co-sign.

They selected the finalists in late July and the artists started creating on August 3.

Mag Rodriguez, who was hired as the Backline Program Director said, “Among the many talented musicians who applied, these four stood out to the judges as being most ready to make huge leaps forward in their careers.”

With that, meet the 2018 Backline artists:

Lex Allen

Lex Allen is this year’s Mary Louise Mussoline Backline Artist, named in memory of 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s late former executive director.

Crystal Knives

Abby Jeanne

Zed Kenzo

The accelerator consists of “create,” “connect” and “plan” phases. Lex Allen, Crystal Knives and ZED KENZO have already been in the "create" phase for four weeks, writing and producing music. Abby Jeanne, who has just finished her new album, has been "creating" promotional materials instead through photo and video shoots. The musicians have been working with local studios and have travelled to Chicago, Los Angeles or even as far as London as part of this process.

Next, during the “connect” phase, the artists will meet mentors and industry experts locally and nationally. With their advice in mind, the “plan” phase will help them develop a 12-month plan to further their careers with the tools they've learned to navigate the music industry.

To make all this possible, Backline is providing artists with $20,000 each to boost their careers, with use of funding determined by the artists and Backline. They are also receiving financial counseling and personal training, aimed at holistically preparing the artists with life skills to succeed as musicians.

For the other applicants and to all Milwaukee musicians, Backline will still provide music career assistance through its upcoming free workshops and one-on-one meetings with staff. And two additional Backline cohort programs are slated for 2019.

The next free quarterly workshop takes place from noon to 3 p.m. this Saturday. It focuses on production and songwriting and features nationally acclaimed producer Bizness Boi and songwriter Rush Davis at the 88Nine Radio Milwaukee performance space. Find more information and register for free here.

The 2018's Backline program will culminate with a showcase performance by all four artists on November 16 from 7-10 p.m at 88Nine Radio Milwaukee’s performance space. All funds from ticket purchases will go directly to the artists performing. Subscribe to the Backline mailing list to be the first to know when tickets are on sale.