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Cleveland News: Backline Names @SeanOatz PD & Offers $20,000 Grant To Indie Artist

Backline, a free, grant-based musician accelerator program launched in Cleveland this week. Backline Cleveland will coach, connect, and provide $20,000 in grant funding to each of the four artists who are selected from a rigorous application, audition and interview process. Backline’s goal is to help emerging artists from the local community increase their chances of “breaking out,” and to further put Cleveland on the map for top musical talent. Backline was founded in Milwaukee in 2018 by 88Nine Radio Milwaukee and gener8tor and has since expanded to Detroit and now Cleveland. Backline was named one of Fast Company’s “10 Most Innovative Music Companies of 2020.”

Sean Oatz (“Oatz”) has been hired by gener8tor to lead Backline Cleveland. Oatz’s deep roots in the Cleveland music scene include serving as the talent manager for Cleveland musicians Lil Cray, Dj Ky, YFL Kelvin, Luis Armando and Congrez. Oatz was also a promoter at Rumor nightclub.

“Working with music industry executive and record label owner Leonard Brooks, I became a very well-rounded artist manager,” said Oatz. “The job as the Director of Backline Cleveland is a perfect fit, as it allows me to do what I already love; impact artists’ careers and help them become a breakthrough artist.”

“We are thrilled to have Oatz leading the Backline Cleveland program,” said Abby Taubner, partner at gener8tor. “It’s clear that Oatz has a deep network and has gained immense respect from the music community in Cleveland, and we can’t wait for him to further support that community through the Backline program.”

Backline will run one annual 12-week accelerator program in Cleveland beginning this fall. Cleveland-area artists can apply now at Although the process to be selected is competitive, it is also designed to be enriching. Local musicians who apply will have their music heard by national industry leaders who are tapped to help judge the applications and select the participants. Beyond working with just four artists in the program itself, Backline will also offer the broader Cleveland music community free office hours with program director Oatz, and free quarterly workshops open to the public.

To kick off Backline’s engagement in Cleveland, a free, virtual “Emergency Response Program” will be made available to any creatives struggling with the effects of COVID-19. The program will last one week, and consist of three webinars aimed at understanding local resources that may be helpful at this time. One-on-one office hours will also be made available to participants. Sign up at

Backline Cleveland is funded by the City of Cleveland and The Finch Group, both of which also sponsor gener8tor’s pre-accelerator startup program gBETA in Cleveland. Both gBETA and Backline run out of Glenville CircleNorth, a new development built as part of Mayor Jackson’s Neighborhood Transformation Initiative. For more information and to sign up for Backline Cleveland’s mailing list, visit

About The Finch Group

The Finch Group (TFG) is a full service, vertically integrated real estate firm with 30+ years of hands on experience in asset management, consulting, developing, rehabilitating, marketing and managing multifamily residential, commercial, hotel and mixed-use properties.

gener8tor’s turnkey platform for the creative economy connects startup founders, musicians, artists, investors, universities and corporations. The gener8tor platform includes pre-accelerators, accelerators, corporate programming, conferences and fellowships.

Backline’s 12-week grant accelerator program provides coaching, mentoring, industry networking, and grants to cohorts of three or four musicians and/or bands. Each participant of the program receives a $20,000 budget grant. The Backline program is free to artists and takes no residuals, royalties, or revenue share. Musicians and bands of any genre may apply. A panel of local and national music industry professionals interview and select the participants. Backline also hosts free quarterly workshops open to the public. Backline is a partnership by gener8tor and 88Nine Radio Milwaukee.

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