Project Music is strategically located in Nashville, Tennessee, a city that has already established its credibility as a music industry hub. After all, it is called Music City. The city has a deep history of innovation around music, having planted the seeds for the music ...
Project Music, the first technology business accelerator dedicated to the future of the fast-changing music industry, is sending off seven music tech startups and a not-for-profit ensemble with business-building skills, influential contacts, and impressive investments. Now in its second year, the Project Music Accelerator is a partnership between the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC) and the Country Music Association (CMA).
On May 16th, the Project Music 2016 Accelerator celebrated completing the 16-week program that provides curriculum, community, connections, and capital to each ambitious team. Since January, the startups have been immersed in the music industry, with 43 guest speakers in the first week alone. They’ve developed expertise in business fundamentals, technology, relationship-building, and more.
This year’s cohort includes seven music-centric tech startups, including RecordGram, a mobile music and video recording studio connecting artists and producers. RecordGram’s CEO, Erik Mendelson, said, “I learned that music executives in Nashville are really looking for technology to solve problems within the music industry." Another is NiceChart, a sheet music customization technology that adjusts arrangements to fit any ensemble's instrumentation and player proficiencies. NiceChart CEO Steve Morell commented, “The music industry can be a tough circle to break into without an introduction, and Project Music helped us gain access to influential and knowledgeable professionals who really understand our product.”
Most participants, like Ayinde Arnett, expect high-speed growth as their ventures apply new tactics. Arnett is CEO of UpNext, a game-based music discovery platform promoting emerging musicians. He found the most valuable lessons to be “a better sense of structure in operating our startup (and) time management skills to balance product milestones, key stakeholder conversations, customer development, Accelerator curriculum, and myriad other items that are on the daily laundry list. Project Music has helped us kick UpNext into full gear.”
And participant Kelly Corcoran said, "I know better how to promote Intersection now that I've met so many advisors and community members who were unfamiliar with our work. I learned to succinctly craft a pitch and story that is compelling, trusted, visionary, unique, smart, and passionate." She is Artistic Director of Intersection, which is a not-for-profit collective expanding how audiences experience contemporary classical music. Intersection joined Project Music as part of a partnership with the Social Enterprise Alliance and benefited from the program’s curriculum and industry connections to launch Contempo Kids, an education program for grade school children.
As the startups have gained acumen, their goals, missions, and strategies have evolved, with EC staff and over 70 advisors helping them navigate transitions. For example, David Blutenthal, CEO of SnapWave, remarked, “The program taught me to systematically validate problem-solution fit, which led to our product pivot and a re-brand from Moodsnap to Snapwave.” His platform facilitates photographers and music fans combining images and songs in immersive ways. Aladdin Shchaslyvyi more than agreed with Blutenthal. His company is Concert.Expert, which teaches artists to gain fans and bookings, and he enthused, “I gained so many insights talking to experts that we changed our target audience, our idea, everything. This early pivot helped us to launch our community for indie artists by March 21st, run customer development, fully develop four tools for artists, and gain over 10,000 US subscribers. It could have taken us ten years to gain the insights we got within three months from Project Music!”
The other two startups participating this year are MyFansDemand, a platform making interaction possible between musicians and fans during performances, and Canada’s Notetracks, a workflow tool for recording and sharing audio projects.
This year’s marriage of the final Nashville Startup Showcase with the annual Music Biz Convention continues to raise the profile of Project Music, the EC, and the participants. At the Nashville Startup Showcase and at a previously held New York Demo Day, the startups presented final pitches to potential backers and strategic partners.
“This year’s Accelerator investors represent virtually every aspect of the music industry, not only providing funding, but supporting the startups that will emerge from it with mentorship and possible partnership,” Heather McBee, EC VP of Accelerator Programming stated. They include labels, publishers, artists, managers, and others from Landscape Capital, Shopkeeper Management, Maverick, BBR Music Group, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Vector Management, UMG Nashville, Beth Lee & Thom Oliphant, Red Light Management, RCA Recording Artist Chris Young, Warner Music Group, and Galante Entertainment.
“CMA is proud to partner with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center once again on Project Music, proving that Nashville and the Country Music community are dedicated to advancing technology for the industry as a whole with this innovative program,” said Sarah Trahern, CMA Chief Executive Officer.
“Project Music is leading the charge to define Nashville as THE city for music-minded entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into realities,” noted Sam Lingo, EC President and Acting CEO. “The geographic reach and depth of the 2016 Investor and Sponsor groups shows how the city has become a premier global destination for music tech entrepreneurs.” Leading tech companies, music business professionals, service providers, and others have joined the title sponsor, CMA, to support the program.
The 2016 cohort of startups will continue to benefit from the EC’s alumni programming, which offers additional curriculum and connections. Even better, support from their fellow Project Music alumni and encouragement from the program’s sponsors and investors will buoy their spirits—and hopefully their fortunes—for years to come.
About the Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC):
The EC, with offices at 41 Peabody Street in the Rutledge Hill area, was founded as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 economic development initiative of the Nashville business community with a vision to become the best place in America for entrepreneurship. Its mission is to connect entrepreneurs with critical resources to create, launch, and grow businesses. For more information, visit http://www.ec.co/.
About Project Music, An EC Initiative:
Project Music is the Nashville Entrepreneur Center’s leading action to support innovation within the music industry, a core business vertical in Nashville's economy. To meet the unique needs of music-minded entrepreneurs building music-centric business, the EC is providing a year-round music entrepreneurship focus that brings music, tech and business leaders together to nurture startups desiring to grow music industry revenue. The program’s capstone is the annual four-month-long Accelerator. For more information, visit http://www.projectmusic.co/.
About the Country Music Association (CMA):
Founded in 1958, the CMA was the first trade organization formed to promote a type of music. In 1961, CMA created the Country Music Hall of Fame to recognize artists and industry professionals with Country Music’s highest honor. More than 7,300 music industry professionals and companies from around the globe are members of CMA. The organization’s objectives are to serve as an educational and professional resource for the industry and advance the growth of Country Music around the world. This is accomplished through CMA’s core initiatives: the CMA Awards, which celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year of recognizing outstanding achievement in the industry; the CMA Music Festival, which benefits music education and is taped for a three-hour TV special; and “CMA Country Christmas,” featuring Country artists performing original music and Christmas classics. All of CMA’s television properties will air on the ABC Television network through 2021. For more information, visit http://www.cmaworld.com/.