From Couch to Capital: The History and Tips for Success for Project Music

January 29, 2020 / Share:

“We were bouncing from Airbnbs, and different motels, and things like that, so there were a few nights where we had nowhere to stay, so I was sleeping right in the back of the Entrepreneur Center, there is a Google room, with a nice comfy couch, and I would lay right there on the couch, and all the cohorts would bring us coffee in the morning” regales Marcus Cobb, CEO of Jammber and member of the first Project Music cohort.



Portia Sabin, President of the Music Business Association, hosts a podcast called “The Future of What” where she interviews individuals about various topics in the music industry. Sabin’s latest podcast episode features Project Music. Sabin sat down to talk about where the program came from, where it is now, and tips for those who want to be a part of Nashville’s ever-growing music tech startup scene.

When Project Music first started in 2015, it was the only music tech accelerator in the United States. Heather McBee, Vice President of Operations at the EC, explains how Nashville’s economic environment primed a program like Project Music for success.

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“The major label, the major publishers, the PROs [(Performance Rights Organizations)], if they are not headquartered here already, they have a major outpost,”  says McBee. Plus, there is a great Indie scene, so we recognize this could really be a support community and we could build it as a hub for new technology that wanted to work and grow the music industry revenue pie.”

Considering at the time, the music industry accounted for $11 million in revenue for the city of Nashville, excluding touring, it made sense for the EC to push the development of Project Music. In conjunction with the Country Music Association, Project Music was born.

Mackenzie Stokel, Co-founder and COO of EVA, an online marketplace that connects event planners and entertainers, describes her time in the first Project Music cohort as “getting your MBA in a short amount of time.” They attended classes, and if they weren’t in class, they had meetings with multiple industry executives and advisors evaluating their business model. It’s been five years since Project Music made its debut and it’s now more bustling, flexible, and accommodating than ever.

EVAmore co-founders Mackenzie Stokel and Channing Moreland at Project Music’s 2015 Demo Day

EVAmore co-founders Mackenzie Stokel and Channing Moreland at Project Music’s 2015 Demo Day

Project Music: Then and Now

Steven Linn, CEO of Amplify Entertainment, longtime advisor, and current Entrepreneur- In-Residence of Project Music, describes the advising process. 

They don’t act like Shark Tank, you know? We don’t come in and say, “this sucks, you should take this behind the barn and shoot it,” as Kevin O’Leary would say,  jokes Linn. Instead, we connect them advisors who help them realize, “ok, this isn’t going to work, I need to change and do this”, and find market validation that will help their business grow.”

The program started as a 14-week model and has since switched to a one year model where the program can accept any stage company and doesn’t take equity-two limitations the accelerator experienced five years ago. At the end of the program, the cohort presents at the demo day to showcase their business to investors and the music industry.

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Cobb’s number one piece of advice to entrepreneurs looking to enter the music tech scene through, Project Music is to “Be humble and ready to learn.”

With over 100 dedicated Project Music advisors, there is always an opportunity for growth. Being open-minded and willing to pivot when entering an industry built on centuries of tradition and practice is crucial to success.

To hear some more tips on succeeding in Project Music and insights on the music industry in Nashville, tune in with Sabin, McBee, Cobb, Stokel, and Linn in the latest episode of “The Future of What: Nashville’s Project Music.” The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts!

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Portia Sabin is the President of the Music Business Association, the only trade organization for the music business that represents all major segments of the industry from distributions to the creatives. The organization is most known for its networking events and opportunities. Their biggest event of the year, “Music Biz 2020” is happening in Nashville between May 11th to May 14th. Join us there!

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