You can’t build a game-changing music-technology company without understanding the intricacies of the industry and the specific concerns of artists and executives. (Witness the shuttering of streaming music service Grooveshark.) That’s the philosophy behind the Project Music Accelerator, a 14-week boot camp for idea-stage music-tech startups piloted by the Nashville Entrepreneurship Center in Tennessee.
“Music-minded entrepreneurs have unique needs,” says program director Heather McBee, noting that the business is complex, networking is tough for outsiders and, unless you go to a college with a program focused on the industry, “there isn’t an easy way to get an education.”
The annual boot camp includes intensive sessions with insiders who share details on A&R, licensing, publishing, distribution and marketing, along with the expected tech curriculum of prototyping, customer acquisition and fundraising, says McBee, a 20-plus-year veteran of the music industry. (This summer the Entrepreneurship Center announced plans to expand Project Music into a year-round initiative.)
Boot camp participants receive hands-on mentorship, desks in the Entrepreneurship Center and $30,000 in seed money (in exchange for 10 percent equity). Investors get a sneak peek at the ventures halfway through the program, and boot camp culminates with demo days in Nashville and New York.
The eight startups in the pilot program—selected from an international pool of 90 applicants—have since raised more than $2 million in private investments. They include a platform for selling classical music online, another for artists to find collaborators and an app that improves the sound quality of streaming music based on a user’s personal “hearing profile.”
For Stephen Davis, co-founder of the hearing app, Ear.IQ, Project Music was a networking gold mine. Among Ear.IQ’s spoils: a letter of intent from a major auto manufacturer interested in buying his product, and board members ranging from a former Shazam executive to a doctor of audiology.
“I managed to get more accomplished and made more contacts in 14 weeks than I did in an entire year working from home,” Davis says.