We started in early 2017 with two goals: help Milwaukee musicians be more successful and help Milwaukee’s businesses help attract young, talented employees.

So, we started with a question: why aren’t Milwaukee musicians more successful? We held one-on-one interviews, focus groups and email surveys — reaching more than 100 people — to uncover what was missing. We heard two consistent themes:  funding and knowledge of the business side of music.

After about one year of researching, planning and fundraising, we publicly announced “Backline” in March, 2018. (“Backline” is a music industry term that refers to equipment — such as a drum kit and amplifiers — that a venue often provides.)

In June, we held our first free workshop, “Booking and Touring,” featuring a panel of local and national talent buyers and booking agents. We attracted a diverse, standing room only crowd of more than 250 musicians. In a post-event survey, 94% of respondents said they are “very likely” (the most positive possible response) to attend future Backline workshops.

We will be holding our second workshop in September (“Songwriting and Producing”) and our third in October (“Distribution”). In 2019, we will be holding these on a more regular, quarterly schedule.

In June, we also opened applications for the grants and accelerator. We received 340 applications! We are now narrowing the field to 10 finalists. In July, an outside panel of five national music industry leaders will be flying to Milwaukee to interview the finalists and selecting the inaugural Backline cohort of four. (“Backline Fellows”)

Once selected, the four artists/bands will participate in the 12-week accelerator. This will run August through October. The Backline Fellows may only use their grant money to pay music-related expenses during and after the program.