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The beat goes on: Music accelerator Backline gives Cleveland area artists shot at their big break

Finalists get $20,000 to help launch their careers

CLEVELAND — Music is one of the industries hardest hit by the coronavirus. While concert venues may be shuttered for now, the news is not all bad.

Here in Cleveland, one or more artists may be on the verge of landing their big break. Proof that the beat goes on, thanks to accelerator program called Backline.

"I started singing in middle school and basically, from there, just kept going," said Will Webb, who is better known to fans as "Will the Spacekid." He has been tuning his craft since his school days on the east side of Cleveland at Paul Revere Elementary School .

In truth, it’s a craft that many in Northeast Ohio have been fine-tuning.

"It’s been a passion of mine," 23-year-old Manny DelPinel, better known as "MannyD," said about looking for his big music break. "Music to me, it’s my place where, you know, I just can let go. I can be me."

It’s a break that MannyD, Will, and 350 other local artists are hoping to find in Backline.

"There’s really people here in the city that make really dope music, and they’ll never the have the opportunity. This gives them the opportunity," Cleveland native Sean Oatz, who has managed a number of artists and worked with acts such as Lil Cray, DJ Ky, YFL Kelvin, and Luis Armando, told 3News. Oatz joined the team at national accelerator gener8tor to launch Backline Cleveland, a program designed to help Cleveland artists become national acts.

Backline started in Milwaukee before spreading to cities like Detroit and Cleveland. Artists apply with their best content before a series of national and local judges narrowing down the list; the final three or four get a $20,000 grant to use toward turning their dreams into a reality.

"I got nothing to lose; I got everything to gain" MannyD says.

"I think it’s huge that Cleveland artists have an opportunity like this," Will added.

Backline Cleveland is down to its final four. Organizers hope the winner will just be the first in a long line of Clevelanders getting their big break.

"Backline is here to stay and we’re going to keep giving this opportunity," Oatz said. "But I need artists to make sure to be ready and coachable and be able to deliver. Somebody from Cleveland has been waiting on this opportunity."

Backline is open to artists and groups of all genres. The 12-week program wraps up in November.

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