The world’s largest streaming platforms own no music.
Whereas corporate power used to manifest itself through complex global supply chains that ensured vast reach, the proliferation of technology, particularly the mobile phone, has meant a categorical shift from complexity to simplicity.
Rather than intricate distribution processes, the most innovative music companies seek to connect the end user with the services they need instantaneously.
The battle has become about introducing pioneering tech into a space that for a long time was thwarted by its very foundations. The problem with the music business since the introduction of tech has been flawed business models.
These are the 10 most innovative music companies.
Whereas power used to sit with the lampooning self-serving ‘fat cats’ who came close to choking the industry to death, an increasing trend amongst the most innovative music companies is to hand power back to the artists.
Kobalt illustrates this perfectly, and gives musicians access to the most remarkable web portal in music history.
Musicians are able to transcend time and space by viewing and collecting money for every instance their work is streamed online, in an ad, in a restaurant or on any of its 700,000 separate revenue streams.
Kobalt also serves the dual purpose of acting as a clearing house for the synchronization of music rights, allowing musicians to leapfrog complex legal proceedings in place of a simplified process taking the same length of time as downloading a single track.
The prices of albums and songs has for a long time been heading towards zero.
You only have to step into a decrepit old HMV store and take a brief look at the bargain bucket to realize that digital is the only arena for today’s music.
With 75 million active users, $3bn paid in revenue to musicians, 30 million songs and 1.5 billion different playlists, it’s clear that flexible, low cost access to music on demand has clearly struck a chord with consumers.
The number of challengers entering the streaming space will only be a good thing for the end user too.
If Spotify wish to bat off advances from the ever encroaching Apple Music by out-innovating, we certainly have no problem with that.
For the business who revolutionized the way we listened to music with iTunes, it was only a matter of time until Apple turned up ‘fashionably late’ to the streaming scene.
Earning its place among the most innovative music companies for its nuanced take on streaming, a more humanistic approach has helped it rocket towards 11 million trial subscribers.
Employing the help of Zane Lowe to anchor the ‘always on’ Beats 1 radio station, what started as an experiment has become a surprise hit. The personality-driven station has been described as “exactly what radio should be”.
Radio aside, the real source of innovation comes from curated playlists.
Upon opening Apple Music for the first time you are presented with tens of interactive dots each representing a different genre of music. A user’s home page is then populated by a delectable selection of music Apple believes matches your style most.
Any company who can tell us the name of ‘that song’ deserves an automatic place on this list of the most innovative music companies.
Although 15 years old, the ability to press a button to identify any song, TV show, movie or ad is still novel.
Despite being known best for its magical music identifying abilities, Shazam is starting to look further afield.
CEO Andrew Fisher recently decided to utilize its 90 million active monthly users to bolster the marketing efforts of the world’s top brands.
Shazam is turning itself into a visual browser. By scanning partner content, the app opens up augmented reality experiences.
If old inefficient music business models taught us anything, it’s that chart music no longer cuts it.
In fact it is somewhat tiring.
SoundCloud is aware of this, and has built the single largest audio platform in the world.
By encompassing obscure genres ranging from ‘chap-hop’ to every deep house-electro-jungle variation, SoundCloud have leveraged the power of the long tail to become one of the most innovative music companies out there.
The preferred place of the creators themselves, it has attracted 175 million unique listeners per month who upload 12 hours of content every minute.
What’s more, creators can share in the advertising revenue. “If an artist is really big on SoundCloud” explains co-founder Eric Wahlforss, “they should be able to make a living off that.”
For Vevo, shaking the inextricable association as the brand behind the pre-rolls to every music video on YouTube is an achievement in itself.
However, to re-affirm itself as the master of music videos required a sizable re-brand.
The user interface was re-built from the ground up, offering users a vastly altered experience catered for mobile.
The result? 40% of its streams come from outside of YouTube and half of its 5 billion monthly views come from mobile devices.
2014 revenues of $4 billion, 6 billion hours of videos watched per month, 300 hours of footage uploaded every minute and the most searched topic?
Now think back to when you were first told about Spotify, you tested the waters by dipping into the free service and were overjoyed when you found your favorite album.
That delight turned to sheer disgust after you played 5 songs and your jam was interrupted time and again, ad break after ad break.
YouTube feels your pain and knows you don’t like ads.
It wants to offer you something new, a way out of those dastardly pre-rolls that they helped pioneer in the first place.
With plans to bring out a subscription based service that allows you to listen to as much music as your ear drums will allow, ad-free, YouTube’s status as the largest online streaming service in the world will be complete.
The plan has earnt it a place on our 10 most innovative music companies list.
The centrepiece of its offering is a new top-level tab that makes personalized recommendations about music videos and playlists.
The streaming battle is certainly hotting up.
Next Big Sound
The jobs of A & R departments just got easier because Next Big Sound analyzes an unending plethora of data to predict the future of music.
Don’t believe me? The New-York based analytics company managed to call the success of artists like Iggy Azalea, A$AP Rocky, and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis more than 2 years before they hit the big time.
The company uses data from social media sites to come up with a score for individual artists ranging from 1-100, the score representing the potential of each artist hitting the Billboard 200 within the next 12 months.
For sheer awesomeness, Next Big Sound is a fixture of the top 10 most innovative music companies.
Low attendance at live gigs unfortunately comes down to a lack of data.
If venues knew the listening habits of customers, they would be able to present a highly curated list of relevant acts at venues local to them.
Rather than stuffing their platform with as many events as possible like other event ticketing sites, Jukely is taking a smarter approach.
Acting like a virtual concert promoter, the platform aggregates local venues’ calendars to highlight local concerts that related to user listening habits.
And did I mention? This entrant to the most innovative music companies is an all-you-can-eat subscription service that gives you access to a concert per-day. Better start improving on those dreadful dance moves.
One of the most popular European music streaming services, Deezer earns its place amongst the most innovative music companies for creating a high-quality streaming service that people are willing to pay for.
By offering curated local playlists and tailoring its product by region, Deezer has been able to ween people away from piracy in countries where it was frowned upon not to do so.
Now, having won that battle, Deezer wants to fight those who carelessly listen to music without a care for its quality. Those who rip music straight from YouTube and listen to music through bundled heaphone sets.
Recognizing that high quality audio is skimped upon far too often, Deezer is building partnerships with the world’s top brands to help promote its new service which provides lossless FLAC quality audio.