Apartment Idol

By on Aug 28, 2017 in Marketing, People

For musicians Jay Filson of Nasvhille and Jeremy Gentry of Chicago, a year of free rent in a brand-new apartment building is a golden ticket while they work toward establishing fledgling music careers.

Jay Filson, center, was named the winner of the SoBro Star contest.

Jay Filson, center, was named the winner of the SoBro Star contest.

And for Chicago-based Magellan Development Group, a Yardi client, hosting the two musicians as “Artists in Residence” at its new properties is an amenity so unique that it has garnered significant press attention.

Filson and Gentry are the inaugural winners of a creative lease-up competition held by Magellan as it marketed The Sobro in Nashville, and Exhibit on Superior in Chicago. The goal was to find Artists in Residence who would perform at the communities and provide music lessons to residents in exchange for a year of free rent.

The Contest

Each Artist in Residence winner competed against dozens of other musicians who submitted videos about why they were the most deserving and talented applicants. A live final performance, a la American Idol, concluded the competition.

“Our Magellan principals envision this musician/artist in residence as teaching, playing, connecting with our residents in a variety of ways. They believe that music brings people together,” said Sherri Cuda, Director of Leasing for Magellan.

Both Filson and Gentry are newly out of college and each was struggling to figure out what next steps their pursuit of a music career would take when they heard about the “Sobro Star” and “Exhibit A-Lister” competitions.

Gentry, who works at one of Chicago’s dueling piano bars in the evenings, was thinking of moving back in with his parents. Filson had been working in marketing but knew that music was really the passion he wanted to pursue.

“This is the kind of opportunity that does not come up, ever,” Gentry said. “I’m hoping that before next year I can make some original music. That’s my goal, to release an EP or a short album of original music before my time is done here.”

Jeremy Gentry

Filson has a similar plan. He was working at his alma mater, Indian Wesleyan University, when the opportunity to compete for free rent in “Music City USA” came his way.

“I tried not to get my hopes up too high but it just seemed like such a perfect opportunity,” he said. “And then it worked out, so I packed up all my stuff and moved to Nashville.” Since arriving, he’s been working on establishing a broad base of contacts and exploring the local music scene.

“People here really do care about music in a really exceptional way. So it’s fun to be able to play for people and residents here that really love music and are open to hearing new artists,” Filson said.

Benefits all Residents


Jay Filson

As part of the terms of the contest, each Artist in Residence puts in 30 hours a month of musical contributions toward their community.

“We get a great deal out of it, but the residents get in house entertainment on a regular basis,” said Filson, who often mixes his own original work with mash-ups from popular artists like Eminem.

“I’ve been playing by the pool, playing any events we have, and playing events at other Magellan buildings,” said Gentry, who is trained as a pianist but also plays guitar and drums.

To augment his preparation for work at the piano bar, Gentry asks his neighbors for their song requests when he plays at the pool. He also has a list of residents who are interested in lessons and plan to start teaching soon.

Expanding Possibilities

Cuda says that Magellan plans to continue to roll out the contest in other future lease-ups, with the option to expand the scope. The talent portion of the event garnered significant publicity and attention in both markets. Local public relations agencies helped market it via social media and local news outlets.

“In future projects, we intend to tailor the program. We may include culinary, wellness, fitness, or other areas. We feel like we’ve just scratched the surface of the visions and concepts we can develop with the program,” Cuda said.

“Our high-rise renter seeks an experience that compliments their life style. They want to work from home, they want convenience, and they want to engage with their neighbors. We feel that this program can develop over time as we continue to develop properties.”

Commented Gentry: “Every apartment in downtown Chicago has the same amenities. Everybody has a pool, everybody has a gym. Everybody has the typical things you would expect in a luxury apartment building.

“But having an Artist in Residence is something that really makes the building stand out. In just the little bit of time that Jay and I have been doing it so far, it seems to be working well and everyone is enjoying it. I don’t see why other (apartment) buildings wouldn’t want to pick it up.”

Watch a video of the Sobro Star competition:

SOBRO STAR PARTY from Sky Candy Studios on Vimeo.