Backline is a 12-week accelerator program offered twice a year that provides coaching, mentoring, industry networking and grants to cohorts of musicians and/or bands. Three musicians and/or bands participate in each cohort of the accelerator, which is operated by gener8tor in partnership with 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. The artists/bands selected become Backline Fellows and perform for music industry professionals, supporters and community members.

Q: Tell us the basics about Backline.

A: Backline is a program to help Milwaukee-area musicians achieve greater success and establish Milwaukee’s reputation as a vibrant music city. Milwaukee continues to lag behind other cities in its ability to attract and retain the young talent critically needed to help our businesses grow. Studies show that millennials and members of Generation Z highly value a city’s contemporary culture when deciding where to work, and that a vibrant music scene is key to this culture.

Q: What programs and services does Backline offer?

A: There are two main parts to the Backline program: workshops and grants/accelerators.

Grants/Accelerator: Backline provides exceptionally promising artists with a $20,000 grant and enrolls them in a 12-week music business accelerator created and operated by gener8tor, one of the top accelerators in the country. In year one (2018), we awarded four grants, and had 347 area musicians apply. In year two (2019), we will be awarding six grants.

Artists may only spend grant money on career-related expenses, such as recording studios, music video production, photography and touring. The 12-week accelerator programs are divided into three phases:

  • Create: Writing and recording; new collaborations with singers, writers and producers; Music video and photo shoots
  • Connect: Travel to New York City and Los Angeles for meetings with record labels, streaming services, managers, booking agents, lawyers and other industry leaders.
  • Plan: Schedule for next 12 months, including new song releases, promotion, tours

Workshops: We produce free quarterly workshops on music business topics, inviting local and national industry professionals to share their expertise. While the accelerator part of our program benefits a small group of recipients, the workshops are open to the entire music community, free of charge. In year one, an average of 220 people attended the two workshops that were held, demonstrating the strong desire for this kind of program. The first workshop. “Booking and Touring,” taught attendees how to approach venues and how to book tours. Panelists included local talent buyers and national booking agents. The second workshop, “Songwriting and Producing,” featured tips from accomplished writers and producers from Los Angeles.

Q: Who can apply?

A: Anyone from the seven-county Milwaukee area, age 18 or older.

Q: How does Backline benefit the overall business climate of the state?

A: A vibrant music scene is a key economic driver. Organizations such as WEDC and other corporate supporters are recognizing this. Their support is allowing us to elevate the careers of our tremendously talented artists. That won’t just help the artists but will help the business climate overall. We’re grateful to those who understand the importance of this effort.

Q: Why is Wisconsin an ideal location to start a business?

A: In the case of the music business, we have an abundance of talent, largely untapped—so the talent is here.

Q: What does Backline look to achieve?

A:  Backline has two main goals: to enable artists to achieve successful careers and grow the music industry, and to help reshape Milwaukee’s image into one that is more attractive to the young talent our companies are competing for.

Q: What is the best way to learn more about Backline?

A: Check out our website,