Top 10 Music
01 – SoundCloud
For creating a simple, democratic sound-sharing platform embraced by everyone from 50 Cent and Madonna to urban nomads looking to capture an interesting neighborhood sound. More than 10 million users have jumped on SoundCloud’s mission to “unmute the web,” two million of which came in the last two months. In May, it released its API to appbuilders with SoundCloud Labs, where more than 10,000 apps are currently in development. And $50 million from a Kleiner Perkins-led funding round? Well that sounds pretty sweet, too. READ MORE
02 – Spotify
For taking the cake in the battle of the all-you-can-eat on-demand music streaming services (against competitors such as MOG and Rdio). Since its July U.S. launch, Spotify has become Facebook’s default music partner and gained 3 million paying subscribers worldwide, 20% of its active user base. Most surprising? More than half of those paying for the service are under 30.
03 – Pandora
For channeling its claim over Internet radio into a $235 million IPO that blew estimates out of the water. A month after the June offering, the service broke its addiction to Flash, launching a beautifully fresh-but-familiar HTML5 redesign. Listener stats continue to rise, even in the wake of Spotify Radio–Pandora saw 13% to 25% listening increases across the top ten U.S. radio markets in the last quarter of 2011.
04 – Björk
For creating the world’s first app album. Björk tapped interactive design guru Scott Snibbe to create the phantasmagoric iPad app for Biophilia, her first full-length album in four years, immediately positing it as a new-media model for fellow recording artists.
05 – XL Recordings
For being one of the last remaining independent labels to produce breakout mainstream artists. Adele, M.I.A., and Beck are all on XL’s enviable current roster, but the label only signs one artist and releases a half-dozen records a year to maintain its high quality production. Keeping things small has paid off in big ways, like with Adele’s album, 21, which has sold more than 17 million copies since its release last January. In a throwback to the vintage days of A&R, XL’s handpicked talents speak–and sing–for themselves.
06 – Mason Jar Music
For pioneering a new concert model. The Brooklyn-based collective of musicians, artists, and filmmakers eschews large, commercial spaces for nontraditional venues that foster organic collaboration. In October, they partnered with indie darling Feist to stage a 25-piece band for a secret debut of her Metals album at a tiny Harlem crypt. And a recent video for their new Grooveshark series, “Mason Jar Music Presents…,” documents a performance by The Wood Brothers at an abandoned Brooklyn schoolhouse. Related: A Creative Movement Grows In Brooklyn: Mason Jar Brings The Art Back To Music
07 – Ticketmaster
For (finally) putting fans first. The $8 billion company is taking on years of dissatisfied clients and falling sales by revamping the online ticket-buying site to be a destination where fans actually want to be. This year, it’s integrated Facebook with its interactive seat map so friends can buy tickets near each other; partnered with America-approved brands such as Walmart and Groupon on ticket deals; and built an analytics division that lets it mine data about the 26 million monthly visitors to parent company LiveNation’s sites. And the efforts are showing promise: Post-purchase customer satisfaction is at its highest since 2006.
08 – Bandcamp
For beating piracy at its own game. Artists on the music distribution platform–once the strict stock of small indie bands–pop up in piraters’ searches for illegal downloads. In turn, fans led to Bandcamp are paying for songs they had no intention of purchasing. Artists on the site have clocked $12.6 million in song and merch sales (of which Bandcamp takes 15%) since the service started up in 2008, and $1 million of that was from December 2011 alone, indicating that paying for digital music is far from dead.
09 – The Echo Nest
For launching Echoprint, a completely open-source music identification program that brings the technology of closed systems like Shazam to the masses. Echoprint currently has a catalog of 13 million songs that is designed to grow in tandem with its community. For example, its data license stipulates that you must contribute any new “fingerprints” you discover back to the Echoprint developer community.
10 – Turntable.fm
For turning music sharing into a novel social experience. Turntable.fm’s 110,000 active users–about 30,000 of whom are logging 10 to 20 hours a month–can DJ their favorite songs to each other in virtual “rooms,” either from their personal libraries or from the service’s own catalog, supplied by copyright heavyweights ASCAP and BMI. Since its debut last January, the service has inspired several copycats, notably Facebook’s “Listen With” feature which launched this January. In the age of made-for-you personal playlists from the likes of Pandora, Turntable.fm is a breath of fresh air.