01 / Pandora
For taking personalized music on the road. Last year, Pandora founder Tim Westergren settled into his groove, making it clear his music discovery engine had no interest in playing Spotify and Rhapsody’s web-based game. His target? Radio: terrestrial and satellite. Pandora has more than 80 million listeners for its personalized streaming music service, and it dominates the mobile market (the Pandora app is on more than 20 million iPhones), peeling off more than 2% of all terrestrial radio listeners. Overall, Pandora is available for at least 200 unique devices now, from Blu-ray players to flat-screen TVs. Next up: filing for an IPO.
02 / Coca-Cola
For building a $300 million, 160-country World Cup campaign–it’s biggest ever–around the Somali-born pop star K’Naan. The deal went so well that it redefined the way that Coke works with content providers.
03 / Big Champagne
For creating a pop chart that factors in YouTube views, social media mentions, and more–an important addition in an age when it seems like more people watch Lady Gaga on YouTube than listen to her records.
04 / Arcade Fire
For pushing the limits of HTML5 and interactivity in its “We Used to Wait For It” video to create a personalized viewing experience. Fans can enter an address of the home they grew up in, and the video uses shots from Google Maps and Street View to make the song and the video about them. Arcade Fire also partnered with YouTube to livestream one of its concerts.
05 / Terra.com
For proving that the music industry can still be profitable. Terra runs Sonora, a.k.a. the Spotify of Brazil, which offers free streaming music across virtually any platform. (There are already at least 2 million tracks from major and indie label artists.) And the annual Planeta Terra festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil has become an ongoing experiment in sustainability.
06 / Hello Music
For being an A&R company that values artistry over business. When aspiring artists submit music, Hello Music promises that a team of music-industry experts, who have all been musicians, will listen to every piece of it. Then, they’ll provide a free profile highlighting strengths and weaknesses. Based on that, Hello Music also determines how–if at all–artists might turn their art into business, making money off of what it calls a “river of pennies,” a.k.a. small cuts from all of the deals it secures.
07 / Converse
For advancing the “branded” record label. At Converse Rubber Tracks, an in-development studio in Brooklyn, artists will get free recording time in exchange for agreeing to do future promotions with Converse. The shoe titan is not looking for revenue from the songs themselves–artists will actually keep ownership rights–but it is hoping to gain access to on-the-verge bands, which will generate goodwill down the road.
08 / Sonos
For building a modern, affordable wireless sound system that integrates with computers, portable music players, and Web apps (Napster, Rhapsody, Spotify)–and sounds great, too.
09 / Songbird
For creating an open-source music listening/organizing platform that can be customized–think new colors, layouts, skins, etc.–into something way more personal than iTunes.
10 / Weezer
For customizing its own business through unusual record and marketing deals–and still producing great music.