Explore the full 2022 list of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, 528 organizations whose efforts are reshaping their businesses, industries, and the broader culture. We’ve selected the firms making the biggest impact with their initiatives across 52 categories, including the most innovative media, design, and consumer goods companies.
The recorded music industry made sizable gains in 2021, growing 7.4% to reach an estimated $31.6 billion in the United States. Many of the businesses that we recognize on this year’s list of the Most Innovative Companies in music have made it a priority to ensure smaller artists have the tools and resources to get their fair share. Networking app Vampr is positioning itself as a LinkIn for musicians, helping them find one another, collaborate, and even distribute their work. DistroKid, meanwhile, launched a tool that helps match unsigned artists with record labels. Landr helps more than 500,000 artists and producers create, master, and distribute their music in new and more powerful ways. And streaming service SoundCloud introduced fan-powered royalties, allowing artists to earn revenue every time a fan streams their music.
Last year also saw the growing trend of major artists selling their catalogues to publishing and management companies for dizzying sums. The leader in the field, Hipgnosis Songs Fund, is not just buying catalogs, it offers artists a bespoke approach to their music. In the process, it’s been reframing music publishing as song management.
Music is diving deeper into the metaverse, with companies like Splash using AI to create music-based games in digital environments. AI has a stronger hand in pushing the music industry in new directions. Musiio is using it to efficiently categorize and tag large volumes of tracks. The company also has a new AI tool that that measures a song’s likelihood to be a commercial hit.
Some innovations are less high-tech, but no less profound. Interscope Geffen A&M developed its new Interscope Miami label to champion Latin-based projects in the U.S. market—a shift that means that Spanish-speaking artists have the same force might behind them as other Interscope artists. Read on for more of the best in music in 2022.
For connecting fans via URL and IRL
Mandolin became a forerunner in the livestreaming space not long after its launch in summer 2020 as concert promoters and musicians were looking for a way to keep their shows going. Mandolin’s challenge going forward has been to stay as relevant as in-person events picked up. Hence Mandolin Live+, a hybrid of IRL and digital experiences. Concertgoers at an event can streamline purchases (merch, concessions, etc.) through the app so there’s no waiting in line. They can also choose meet-and-greet or after-party events through Live+ and replay shows that are filmed live. Mandolin has hosted more than 1,800 shows and festivals including Firefly Music Festival and Telluride Bluegrass Festival, and facilitated $8.8 million in sales for artists and venues.
For being the LinkedIn for musicians
Vampr is a social and professional app for musicians looking to network, collaborate, and distribute their work. Launched in 2020, Vampr has grown to 1.1 million users and has facilitated 6.6 million connections worldwide across 190 countries, thanks to features including Vampr Pro (a premium subscription service) and Vampr Publishing (the company’s distribution arm). Vampr continued to build on its offerings in 2021 with Happy Hour, a free feature that allows users unlimited swipes (i.e., how users connect with each other similar to dating app Tinder), for one hour each week. Vampr also rolled out Vamps, short-form audio, video, or image updates like Instagram Stories and Live.
3. Interscope Geffen A&M Records
For rethinking Latin music in the U.S.
Latin music in the U.S. continued its groundswell in 2021, growing 37% to $407 million in revenue, outpacing the overall music market which grew by 27%. That kind of momentum propelled Interscope Geffen A&M Records to create Interscope Miami, a label that works with Latin-based projects in the U.S. market. Traditionally, major labels have Latin divisions focused primarily on Spanish-speaking markets. Interscope Miami, intentionally named that instead of “Interscope Latin” to avoid boxing artists in, cross pollinates Latin A&R with the marketing and creative teams of Interscope’s main label. That means Spanish-speaking artists on Interscope Miami can have the same creative might behind them as Interscope artists such as Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. Similarly, Interscope artists can work with Interscope Miami to release Latin-based projects, like Selena Gomez did with her first Spanish-language album Revelación.
For using AI to catalog and categorize music—down to its hit potential
Musiio launched in 2019 as a solution for audio platforms looking to efficiently categorize and tag heavy volumes of tracks. Using AI that “listens” to each file, Musiio is able to sort by qualifiers including genre, key, tempo, and mood–most importantly for platforms that don’t have the resources to build this kind of technology in-house. In 2021, Musiio launched Tag App, a pay-as-you-go tagging tool that allows users to only pay for the tags they need. Musiio also launched Hit Potential, a feature that measures a song’s likelihood to be commercially successful based on factors such as talent and melodic familiarity. Musiio tags 20,000 tracks per day and serves more than 40 B2B clients.
For making music in the metaverse
Splash bills itself as the “future of entertainment in the metaverse”–and it seems to be on track with that goal by offering AI-based tools to create and perform music in digital spaces. In 2020, Splash launched a game within Roblox where players could DJ for their friends. Club Splash has garnered more than 128 million plays and spawned the breakout virtual star Kai (created by a New York-based Roblox games developer) whose music video for the track “Breathe Again” racked up 1.7 million views and has been played for more than 140,000 players in Splash. That was enough to catch investors’ attention including Amazon’s Alexa Fund and Bitkraft Ventures who co-led a $20 million Series A round in 2021. Splash currently has 3 million active monthly users with 1,000 players spending more than five hours a day creating their compositions.
6. Hipgnosis Songs Fund
For revamping music publishing
Music publishing, i.e. the handling of an artist’s catalogue for royalties and licensing, is a substantial part of the overall industry. The market for music publishing in the US alone increased 8.3% in 2021 to hit $7.5 billion. It may seem like a “if it isn’t broke . . .” scenario, but Hipgnosis Songs Fund sees it differently. Since launching in 2018, Hipgnosis has become a leader in the space by looking at songs as an asset class, like gold or silver, and by reframing music publishing as song management, a more hands-on, bespoke approach to working with an artist’s catalog. In 2021, Hipgnosis and investment management company Blackstone launched a $1 billion partnership to invest in recorded music, royalties, and music IP. Hipgnosis also acquired 50% of Neil Young’s catalog and 100% of Shakira’s, adding to the company’s roster that includes RZA from the Wu Tang Clan, Timbaland, Jimmy Iovine, Stevie Nicks, and more.
For paying artists what they deserve
Music streaming platforms have long been derided for shelling out peanuts to artists, which may not affect the bigger names in the business who can supplement their revenue through other avenues at scale. However, for smaller artists, every stream counts. This year, music streaming and distribution platform SoundCloud introduced fan-powered royalties, an initiative where artists can earn revenue based purely on streams by their fans. The industry standard has been the pro rata model, which pools subscriber payments and pays artists based on the market share of the artist/label. Since launching fan-powered royalties, artists on SoundCloud have made five times more month over month, and the overall number of artists monetizing on the platform has increased 25%.
For playing matchmaker for unsigned artists
Indie music distribution platform DistroKid launched Upstream, a matchmaking service connecting unsigned artists and record labels. When artists opt in to the free service, their Upstream profile, which includes links to their music, streaming data, and contact info, is shared with labels. Upstream, which is led by Che Pope, Grammy winning producer and former COO of Kanye West’s GOOD Music label, has had thousands of artists sign up and announced Republic Records (Ariana Grande, Drake, Taylor Swift, Post Malone) as the first major label to join.
For equipping music makers with what they need
Landr, a platform for producers and artists to create, master, and distribute their music, doubled down on its suite of tools. Chromatic is a digital streaming instrument that consists of a library of sounds and beats created by well-known artists, session players, and producers–including Grammy nominee D Smoke and singer-songwriter Ariane Moffatt—that artists on Landr can remix into their own creations. The company also unveiled Landr Sessions, a way for musicians to collaborate virtually while maintaining good audio quality. That kind of innovation in creator tools has propelled Landr to have more than 4.4 million producers, composers, musicians and labels on the platform.
For rewarding fans
Geojam is a platform where fans can earn points by engaging with their favorite artist’s music and content in the app. Those points go toward redeeming personalized experiences, merch, and digital goods from the likes of 24kGoldn, Machine Gun Kelly, and Mariah Carey who also serves as the company’s executive adviser. In 2021, Geojam joined the crypto space with its token $JAM that can be used toward purchasing NFTs. Fans can also pool their tokens to propose ideas for experiences on the platform from their artists.