Clayton Janes loves music and classic British cars (as you can see in his photograph). Being in the music industry for nearly twelve years, he’s decided to start The Music Accelerator, an accelerator program designed specifically for aspiring artists. After mastering his coding skills, he’s on to his next venture: growing the business and bringing exposure to new talent.
How long have you been working in the music industry?
I’ve been working at this level in the industry for around 12 years which started with Mary J. Blige in 2003. But my lucky break was with Usher during his massive “Confessions” album and tour. That really launched my career.
I have always loved music and was in a band as early as the age of 14. I played synthesizers and was fascinated by the technology side of music production. Our high school band was signed to a major label but the band fell apart before we released an album. I took a break from music and worked as a flight instructor and Commercial pilot, building my hours needed to work at an airline. Then 9/11 hit and all the flying jobs went away and that’s when I took another crack at music. Thankfully it worked out this time around- I was pretty much out of options!
What brought you to GA?
I was constantly finding myself wishing I could program and develop my own web apps. I couldn’t keep motivated using various web based instruction offerings and felt there had to be a better way. I basically found General Assembly by Googling. After meeting with an adviser I knew it was going to be a great fit.
Tell me about The Music Accelerator.
The Music Accelerator is an accelerator program specifically for aspiring music artists. We are simply applying the Silicon Valley startup accelerator model to bands, singers, and songwriters.
Twice yearly we hold 12 week intensive music performance, songwriting, and recording programs led by high profile music industry advisers that culminates with an artist showcase for a carefully selected invite only music industry audience. Our goal is to cultivate music career opportunities for these aspiring music artists through collaboration and mentorship with industry leading producers, performers, and songwriters.
How can an accelerator model help aspiring artists?
The old way of doing business in music is dead. It is paramount that these aspiring artists start viewing themselves as music entrepreneurs with the same challenges as a startup showing equal artistry between their instrument and manipulation of web resources. The accelerator model allows us to help develop their careers over the short and long term with the benefits of our current network as well as the alumni base that will grow over time.
“Demo Day” looks like a cool perk of being included in the program. Can you tell me more about it?
We are so excited about our version of Demo day! -and more importantly the music industry is excited about our Demo day.
This will be a showcase where the artists perform a short set in front of a carefully selected invite only industry audience. If you are performing, you will be heard by the top decision makers in the industry.
What made you want to apply to YCombinator?
My cofounder Stacy Jones and I make a great team as we have all of the domain experience needed to make a music focused startup succeed. The inspiration for The Music Accelerator comes directly from the Silicon Valley startup model so it makes sense for us to try and embrace that world. Unfortunately our focus on artist development rather than the technology side may be outside of YC’s purview. But truthfully an LA based accelerator would probably be a better fit.
What’s the largest misconception about this service?
Well, some people’s initial reaction is to compare The Music Accelerator to American Idol or the Voice. But we are not a competition and we treat each of the artists equally and that extends throughout the life of their career. Facilitating opportunities and career guidance doesn’t just end with the 12 week program.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Stacy and I worked tirelessly on this as we finished our touring commitments- which we finally did this month. Stacy is the musical director and drummer for Miley Cyrus and I just finished with the Eagles as digital music supervisor and programmer. It was challenging coordinating Skype conference calls between Australia and the US, especially on a musicians schedule!
Educating people outside of the tech and startup world on the definition of an accelerator can also be a challenge.
How has GA been helpful to you?
Confidence inspiring! As I mentioned before, due to my touring schedule I took the FEWD and BEWD classes concurrently. My FEWD class was on Monday and Wednesdays in Santa Monica and then I took a 6AM flight to San Francisco every Saturday to complete my BEWD class, flying back in the evening after class. I was definitely committed- and exhausted by the end of it. I learned so much over those 10 weeks, not just the programming aspects but things you simply can’t learn online such as workflow and the advantages of paired programming. I absolutely could not have moved forward on The Music Accelerator without my experience at GA. I’m still constantly in touch with my instructors and fellow students. I can’t thank them enough.
What’s your guilty pleasure, Clayton?
If you know me at all you know you know the answer to that is anything with a motor!
Particularly classic British cars and motorcycles.
Nelson Igunma is a Front Lines Associate at General Assembly and and Alumni Writer for GA Success Stories.