Community, Competition, and a Carousel: Why Music Tectonics is for Startups

Swimming with Narwhals Music Tech Startup Pitch Competition Launches: Application Deadline is August 8, 2023

Music Tectonics Conference has opened applications for Swimming with Narwhals Music Tech Startup Pitch Competition. Startups working in music innovation are invited to apply and attend the conference October 24-26. Early Bird rate tickets are available for $249 before August 15, plenty of time to buy a badge before Pitch Competition applications close August 8. Find competition applications and conference tickets at

The Music Tectonics Conference is now in its fifth year of cultivating a community where music innovators from all over the ecosystem connect across industry boundaries— investors, advisors, labels, distributors, future-savvy artists, and more. If you’re a startup founder in the music tech space, that heady mix of potential partners and clients is catnip. “Music Tectonics is where the magic happens,” says repeat attendee James Hill, founder of music startup, “Seriously. This industry is 10% tech and 90% people. Music Tectonics is where the people are and where you need to be.”

From the get-go, Music Tectonics’ pitch competition welcomes startups by keeping barriers to participation low. It’s affordable—the only application fee is a conference badge. “I loved that it was not some crazy $1,000 fee, which is what some competitions will charge,” explains Jessica Powell, winner of the 2022 competition with her startup Audioshake. “I think that’s a total racket. Instead it was just, ‘Hey, you’re coming to the conference. You can enter as well.’”

The visibility of pitching and winning comes with benefits, as the first Swimming with Narwhals winner Jacquelle Amankonah Horton attests. “Winning the Music Tectonics startup competition completely catapulted my company,” Horton recalls. “It was the first time I spoke publicly about my vision outside of moonlighting on the project, and the direct support I received from the judges, industry leads who saw or heard of me from this stage, and the amazing fellow attendee community is what led to me closing a $2.2M seed round from top industry companies just a few months later. So grateful and feel indebted to the MT family for this kickoff.”

As a competition, Swimming with Narwhals is no shark tank. Sure, only a few competitors will make it through to the final pitch session in front of the whole conference—but pitching is just one way startup applicants get involved. At every stage, juries of expert entrepreneurs and investors interact with and encourage competitors. Juries for the 2023 competition have yet to be announced, but past judges have included investors from Amazon Investor Fund, Union Street Ventures, Sony Ventures, Caldecott Ventures, and Expert DOJO, as well as experts from Techstars Music, Capacitance, and Wasserman Music. In keeping with that easy-going spirit, Music Tectonics’ pitch competition doesn’t come with prize money–2023 winners will get a feature in a press release about the competition, a founder interview on the Music Tectonics Podcast after the event, and a free badge for the 2024 conference.

The Swimming with Narwhals Startup Pitch Competition puts the spotlight on winning startups and welcomes all applicants into the MT community. “I enjoyed every second of this competition!” says Xann Schwinn, winner of the 2021 competition with her startup Biiah, “I am constantly inspired by the startup founders I meet in this space, and Music Tectonics curated a welcoming space for these founders, a new generation of music tech startups, to show up to tell the world what important problems they are solving for our industry.” 

The competition is just one aspect of Music Tectonics’ for startup-friendly design. In 2022, organizers debuted the Startup Carousel demo day. Narwhal applicants and finalists showcased their innovations at the Santa Monica pier Carousel for conference attendees in a fun, informal setting. “I came directly from TechCrunch, and honestly, thought this was way better,” says Holly Hagerman, 2022 semi-finalist, Carousel participant, and founder of AmptUp, “I love the intimate feel, where you can create a tribe, see people repeatedly, build relationships, and meet quality people.” 

The bottom line is that music innovation startups need to be at the Music Tectonics conference— so diving in with the Narwhals just makes sense! Find competition details and a simple application form at

Competition Timeline:

August 8           Applications close at 11:59pm Pacific Time

August 15         Last day to purchase badges at the Early Bird rate  of $249.

August 29         Ten Semi-finalists announced

September 13   Semi-finalists pitch at the Music Tectonics Online Preconference

September 18   Four finalists announced

October 24        Startup Carousel demos at Music Tectonics in Santa Monica, CA.

October 25        Finalists pitch in-person at the conference.

October 26        Jury choice and Audience Choice winners announced at the conference.

About Music Tectonics:

Music Tectonics was founded to explore the deep seismic shifts that keep the music industry unsettled. At the fifth annual conference in 2023, we’ll delve into the consequences of these shifts and the new fault lines poised to change the industry yet again.

Music Tectonics unites music tech innovators across industry boundaries to share insights and get business done. A variety of experiences in unexpected venues offers attendees many opportunities for making meaningful connections, scheduling meetings, and serendipitous encounters.

The fifth annual conference returns to Santa Monica, CA, October 24-26, 2023. Join us for three days of programming about the future of music that prepares you to ride the next seismic shifts shaking up the industry.

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