The 10 Most Creative People in the Music Biz

1. DeAndre "Soulja Boy Tell'em" Way, rapper/producer
The 18-year-old Web wunderkind took a crazy song and dance, and propelled it via YouTube and MySpace fame into an Interscope recording contract and platinum record sales. And to prove he was no one-hit wonder, he returned with a chart topping sophomore set. Now he's branched out into a live-action animation series and an endorsement deal with Yums footwear and fashions. Next up: a video game for Xbox 360, and acting.

2. Tim Westergren, Chief Strategy Officer & Founder, Pandora
An award-winning composer, an accomplished musician, and a record producer, Westergren founded the Music Genome Music Project, a technology that uses over 400 attributes to describe songs and a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them and launched it with Pandora in January 2000. Nine years later, it's the world's favorite Internet and mobile radio station, with the best built-in system for music discovery ever.

3. Alexandra Patsavas, Owner, Chop Shop Music Supervision
She has a gift for matching the right song to the right scene in some of TV's most popular shows. The day after Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" played on Grey's Anatomy, it became the most downloaded song on iTunes, and the show's soundtrack was later nominated for a Grammy. After that, Atlantic Records gave Patsavas her own label.

4. Gregg Gillis, Mashup artist
The ex-biomedical engineer, also known as Girl Talk, layers unlicensed song samples and "performs" them live, with his laptop center stage. Last year, he released his fourth album, Feed the Animals, online, using Radiohead's pay-what-you-want model.

5. Pharrell Williams, Musician
As half of the production duo known as the Neptunes, he has helped everyone from Britney Spears to the Hives land on the charts. He also fronts the funk-rock band N.E.R.D., produces a clothing line called Billionaire Boys Club, hawks a line of shoes under the Ice Cream Footwear brand, and designed sunglasses and jewelry for Louis Vuitton. Most recently, Limelight, an updated version of Fame that he created with film director McG, was picked up by ABC.

6. A.R. Rahman, Composer
He's the Oscar-winning composer behind Slumdog Millionaire's "Jai Ho," which has been downloaded more than 100,000 times on iTunes and was re-recorded as a hit collaboration with the Pussycat Dolls. Rahman also created the musical Bombay Dreams and has been testing new forms of music distribution; through a tie-up with Nokia, he recently released an album just for the company's music-phone users in India.

7. Jimmy Iovine, Chairman, Interscope Geffen A&M Records
In music, all roads lead to--and from--Jimmy Iovine. The resurrection of the New Kids on the Block. The exclusive Best Buy deal for Guns N' Roses. MySpace's music venture. Dr. Dre's high-tech headphones. Iovine had a hand in all these projects--and he's still thinking big, bold, and increasingly multimedia.

8. Bart Decrem, Chief executive officer, Tapulous
Three days after its release last July, Tap Tap Revenge--an iPhone game that's basically Dance Dance Revolution except that you tap your fingers to a song rather than dance to it--shot to No. 1 among free game downloads on iTunes. It was testimony to the appeal of playing along to bands such as Coldplay. Within a week, artists were reaching out to the game's developer, because the game links to purchase songs on iTunes. Decrem has partnered with labels (EMI) as well as individual acts to create band-branded apps.

9. Dave Stewart, Musician and record producer
The Eurythmics cofounder and a singer's songwriter--he's written hits for Tom Petty, Celine Dion, and No Doubt--also started the consulting company DeepStew with Deepak Chopra, acts as U.S. creative director for the Law Firm ad group, serves as president of entertainment for fashion designer Christian Audigier's brand-management unit, and is an official Change Agent for Nokia.

10. Brian Eno, Musician
On his recent collaboration with David Byrne, Byrne wrote lyrics in New York to the instrumental tracks Eno sent from London. Then they prereleased the album, "Everything That Happens Will Happen Today," online. Now he's curating a lights-and-music festival in Australia that includes his own light show projected on the Sydney Opera House.

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7 Comments

  • Rebecca Cohen

    I'm confused; I don’t understand how rapper Soulja Boy is the first name on the list... It's seems weird for him to even be on this list at all. Next to seasoned executives like Tim Westergren of Pandora, Jimmy Iovine/Geffen, and Alex at the Chop Shop, what has he really accomplished as a creative exec? Weird and out of place. I'm not saying he isn't talented, the kid has a successful music career and boat loads of followers on YouTube, Twitter and MySpace. But to say he is THE most creative person in the music biz is really pushing it.

  • Peter Cook

    Great list and of course 10 entries is rather limiting.

    I'd want to add Prince to the list in terms of his enduring capacity to create, innovate and transform music. More on the phenomenon that is Prince at http://www.academy-of-rock.co....

    Peter Cook

    Author 'Sex, Leadership and Rock'n'Roll'

  • Mark Reynolds

    J Iovine, creative? Loved him in the 70s/80s, but let's look at the record:

    The resurrection of the New Kids on the Block - failed
    The exclusive Best Buy deal for Guns N' Roses - failed miserably MySpace's music venture - failing by the minute
    Dr. Dre's high-tech headphones - tbd

    Sorry, guys. Most of this LA-centric list misses the mark by a mile.