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88Nine Radio Milwaukee has unveiled Backline, a grant and educational initiative in partnership with business accelerator gener8tor to help Milwaukee musicians succeed as well as establish Milwaukee’s reputation as an emerging music city.

“Our goal is to help Milwaukee become known as one of the country’s most vibrant music cities,” 88Nine Radio Milwaukee Executive Director Glenn Kleiman stated in a press release. “This will help our musicians, but also help our companies attract the young employees they need.”

This summer, Backline will enlist four Milwaukee area musicians or bands for its first 12-week session. Selected musicians and groups will participate in a program modeled on gener8tor’s nationally ranked business start-up accelerator and will receive grants of $20,000 for financial support, recording, promotion and touring.

“Our research has shown the two biggest hurdles limiting the success of talented Milwaukee musicians are funding and knowledge of the business side of music,” Kleiman stated in a press release. “Backline directly addresses these needs.”

Backline will also produce and host free, quarterly workshops on navigating the music business industry, with local and national industry professionals weighing in. Backline will share workshop videos and related educational materials on its website. The first free workshop will be held in June.

“To make it today, musicians need talent and music-industry knowledge,” gener8tor co-founder Joe Kirgues stated in a press release. “Our accelerators will teach them valuable entrepreneurial skills, including what they can do on their own and how to procure services and navigate the industry to succeed.”

When compared to other programs in the U.S. that aim to help musicians succeed, Backline is unique because it uses the model of a business start-up accelerator and a radio station is leading it.

Radio Milwaukee conducted research and interviews with musicians and people in the industry leading up to the creation of the program. It partnered with gener8tor because of the accelerator's success in helping start-up businesses.

Backline is funded by organizations including Northwestern Mutual, Novo Foundation, Manpower, Quarles & Brady, Summerfest and VISIT Milwaukee. Backline is seeking additional donors and corporate partners. Visit backlinemke.org for more information.

Backline is also searching for a full-time program director with applications running through April 13. To apply, visit backlinemke.org/careers. 

Interested musicians can apply for the accelerator in June at backelinemke.org.

A kickoff event for interested musicians and sponsors takes place at the 88Nine studios located at 220 E. Pittsburgh Ave. from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. April 5.


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