Atlanta popularized southern rap and Hip-Hop. Memphis claims soul, gospel, rhythm and blues, and rock ‘n’ roll.
New Orleans brought us jazz and Nashville serves as the epicenter of the country music world.
The Southeast has influenced nearly every genre of music, and people like Courtney Stewart no doubt have played a part in its story. Prior to founding Right Hand Music Group, Stewart was a “fly on the wall” as record labels like LaFace made Atlanta-based talent mainstream. He ultimately started managing Bobby V and Khalid, and now represents some of the industry’s top producers.
Building on his success inside the recording booth, Stewart has joined Techstars Music to help find the next generation of entrepreneurs who can shift how we listen to and interact with music and musical acts.
Joining Techstars Music accelerator was a natural next step for Stewart, who has been part of the industry for the past twelve years. “A big wake up moment for me was when Napster hit,” Stewart told Hyepepotamus. “It was kind of like the COVID moment we are going through right now. Everything just stopped in the music business.” As the industry adjusted to the rise of digital service providers (DSPs) like Spotify and Apple Music, Stewart recognized that technology was influencing every aspect of music and he wanted to be part of that transformation.
The accelerator searches for founders who are reinventing the industry, be it helping artists connect directly with fans, launching new creative acts, improving the safety and experiences around live concerts, or bringing AR/VR technology to the recording industry.
“I think about young producers who might be struggling using some of the popular programs out there, and they might get frustrated and aren’t able to reach their full potential. But they could create their own program that literally is a game-changer,” added Stewart.
To ensure that the Techstars Music team is bringing in new talent into the MusicTech space, the program has committed to 50% of its program CEOs being diverse — with a particular focus on Black, LGBTQ+, and female founders. Managing Director Bob Moczydlowsky spoke about the diversity pledge in a feature in Rolling Stones this November.
For Moczydlowsky, the accelerator is filling an important void in the MusicTech space. The thesis, according to Moczydlowsky, hinges on the idea that “Black culture and gay culture drive music culture. And music culture drives planetary culture.” But these groups have been massively underrepresented in the funding space.
“We have to diversify not only the pipeline of who we are investing in, we have to diversify who sits on the selection committee…and our mentor pool.” It also meant taking a look at what music genres and types of musical touring acts they focus on. “Hip-Hop and rap culture drive streaming culture in such a dominant way, that we have to figure out a way to include these businesses in our capital structure and in our process,” Moczydlowsky said. “On the flip side, we also have to be a catalyst for those businesses making more investments. Those businesses also need to be equal participants in owning equity shares of these companies and helping them have financial opportunities for themselves to get returns.”
While the accelerator is run out of Los Angeles, both Stewart and Moczydlowsky know the Southeast has the talent pool at the intersection of technology and music. “There’s definitely a kid in Atlanta right now who thinks he’s a producer or thinks he’s a rapper, and he’s actually the CEO of a giant company, and he just needs to be able to see it so he can go do it,” Moczydlowsky told Hypepotamus.
The 2021 cohort will be announced around the Grammys in January, with the virtual program launch in February.