How it Works

Photo Credit: Naima Shalhoub, Live in San Francisco County Jail

What is the Activist Musician Accelerator (AMA)?

The AMA is the first incubator of its kind for social change musicians – offering communities an innovative, hands-on, professional development opportunity for their local artists seeking to be more effective, entrepreneurial change agents.  The Accelerator is a virtual program, offered entirely online with live elements as situations allow. Over a period of 8-10 months, each participating artist, in collaboration with an area nonprofit and other allies, develops a 'fundable' pilot project focused on addressing an issue of community concern. As part of the AMA, these artists join an intensive network – connecting with each other, and expert instructors and mentors - through facilitated online workshops, peer-to-peer learning and advisory sessions. Two-minute video overview.

Accelerator artists work on the frontlines of their communities, developing high impact programs that bring a musical approach to tackling such issues as racial and environmental justice, immigration advocacy, addiction and recovery, suicide prevention and youth empowerment. Combining their musical talent with their newly honed skills in grant writing, program development, evaluation and cultural sensitivity, they become significant contributors and influencers for their nonprofit partners and the vulnerable populations they serve. 

Bringing an Accelerator program into a community raises many ships.  First, it taps and mobilizes the often-overlooked capacity of musicians to be part of creative and strategic solutions to communities in-need.  Next, for the music-affinity organization that hosts the Accelerator, it adds a field-tested, innovative social change ‘brand’ to their work.  Finally, it engages the broader community through its hybrid educational/social change model: stakeholders, donors and allies become volunteers, mentors and instructors in the program. 

Why the AMA is Different

The Accelerator trains musicians as entrepreneurial change agents – able to bring smart, compassionate, collaborative approaches to furthering measurable change through music.  The AMA then builds, engages and sustains relationships among previously unconnected entities (local/regional musicians, social enterprise orgs and supporters) by incentivizing their participation and delivering cross-sector benefits:

  • Values promotion
  • Measurable community impact
  • Diversified constituent base
  • New skills, tools, resources

How it Works

Community Hosts (membership organizations, universities, festivals) adopt the Accelerator framework – available for free - into their management and operating structure, and are guided by the Music to Life team around planning, budgeting and implementation.

After an intensive orientation, Hosts follow the recommendations of Music to Life’s step-by-step Accelerator Playbook – a complete operating manual on how to run an Accelerator including: 

  • Artist recruitment, screening and on-boarding (sample application, review panelist forms and agreement letters, orientation process, press releases)
  • Curriculum development (sample timelines, curricular topics, instructor/mentor references and ideas)
  • Calendar of meetings, one-on-one mentoring, special events 
  • Evaluation (measuring progress at various stages, trouble shooting along the way)
  • Marketing/promotion (stories, PR strategies, cultivating followers)
  • Other (sample documents, branding guidelines, participation in National Network, etc.)

Return on Investment Calculations

Community Hosts enjoy a variety of benefits from their time and coordination:

  • Attracting a diverse spectrum of multi-genre artists working across critical issue areas  
  • Expanded support for working artists (revenue enhancement, creative mentoring, guided shift to virtual platforms)
  • Fully online programming and instruction, peer-to-peer learning sessions and artist showcases
  • Facilitated, value-add partnerships between artist and community-based organizations (CBOs), and stakeholders (note: Artists typically generate at minimum of 2-3 grant applications as part of the Accelerator which can generate $5-$10k per artist/nonprofit partnership) 
  • Sustainable and branded social change “brand” that can continue to facilitate community impact in collaboration with artists, local supporters and allies.