Friday afternoon, 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and gener8tor announced the recipients of their Backline accelerator program. First unveiled in March, Backline is a “grant and educational initiative designed to help Milwaukee-area musicians break out.” The Milwaukee-area musicians selected to break out via the “12-week accelerator program, which provides intensive music-industry mentorship and $20,000 grants,” are Abby Jeanne, Lex Allen, Zed Kenzo, and Crystal Knives. All four are awesome. Congrats!

“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,” Backline Program Director Mag Rodriguez said in a press release. “We have already begun helping guide them and connect them to the resources they need at this stage of their careers. Those in the music industry we’ve connected them with share our vision for these artists and see the huge potential for them to make their mark in the music world.”

The musicians were selected in late July and have been working with Backline since August 3.

Backline received 340 applications for its 2018 accelerator. From there, 20 finalists were “brought into recording studios to produce music in small groups.” From there, “five nationally recognized music-industry professionals from outside of Milwaukee” interviewed the finalists and selected the final four. Those judges were:

• Lucas Keller, president and founder of Milk & Honey artist management agency
• Jim McGuinn, program director of Minneapolis’ The Current radio station
• Chad “C-Note” Roper, a Grammy-nominated vocal producer, songwriter and engineer
• James Supreme, manager and A&R with Universal Music Publishing Group
• Jessica Weber, owner and founder of co-sign, an artist development agency specializing in radio promotion and licensing

A showcase featuring the four artists is set for November 16 at 88Nine. Ticket info can be found here.

Here’s the rest of the press release. Again: Congrats to Abby Jeanne, Lex Allen, Zed Kenzo, and Crystal Knives!

The accelerator consists of “create,” “connect” and “plan” phases. During the “create” phase now underway, musicians have been spending time in studios to create music and develop their projects. Musicians have gone to Chicago, Los Angeles and London as part of this process and have worked with studios locally. During “connect,” artists will be introduced to mentors and industry experts locally and nationally. The “plan” phase helps artists develop a 12-month plan to further their careers and equip them with tools to navigate the music industry.

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 services, such as financial counseling and personal training, aimed at holistically preparing the artists with life skills to succeed as musicians.

Rodriguez said the high number and quality of applications confirms that Milwaukee is home to many extremely talented musicians. He said that Backline would provide assistance to other applicants and Milwaukee musicians through its free workshops and one-on-one meetings with staff. Two additional accelerator sessions are slated for 2019.

The next free quarterly workshop takes place 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. More information and free registration is at

88Nine Radio Milwaukee and gener8tor developed Backline to help Milwaukee musicians succeed, improve Milwaukee’s recognition as one of the country’s most vibrant music cities and assist companies in attracting the young employees they need. More information on Backline is available at