The world’s top 10 most innovative companies in music

By Skylar Gergl

For naming that tune. All the time. The “Pop-up Video” for everyday life, Shazam has become the de facto method to identify that song on the tip of your tongue. In 2013, it introduced Auto Shazam, an opt-in feature that keeps a diary of your day’s playlists without you even noticing. The company has also started working directly with artists, allowing them to provide exclusive behind-the-scenes footage, interviews, and unplugged versions of their tracks. With no interruptions, the guarantee that no audio will be stored, and the opportunity for companies to reach consumers based on their TV show or commercial engagements, Shazam has moved from cool party trick to major music-industry player.

2. YY
For reclaiming karaoke and taking it online. While YY started in 2005 as a hub for hardcore gamers, it’s evolved into a karaoke haven and cash cow with $198 million in revenue. Vocalists perform for thousands of viewers live, and popularity leads to rewards. Viewers can give virtual goods to the vocalists, which can be redeemed for cash after YY takes its 60% cut.

For staying up all night. A label more closely identified with the old-school music business made two strategic bets in 2013. Without any previous promotion, Beyonce’s surprise self-titled release dropped at midnight on December 13th and sparked a downloading frenzy that rocketed it to No. 1 on the sales charts. On the other end of the spectrum, Columbia showed deftness in the campaign behind Daft Punk’s new album, creating a stir with short teasers on Saturday Night Live and at Coachella, hitting overdrive with a clip of Pharrell and Nile Rodgers performing “Get Lucky” and releasing a series of “Collaborator” videos.

For saving the music industry, one stream at a time. Spotify’s influence can hardly be overstated. The company has essentially trained roughly 25 million people to pay for streaming music rather than pirate it for free. And more than 6 million of them are now paying $10 a month for the ad-free experience. In 2013, Spotify extended its reach to 55 different countries and became the second largest source of music revenue, only behind iTunes. It also invested in music data by acquiring The Echo Nest, which has compiled over 1 trillion data points about more than 35 million songs, undoubtedly giving Spotify a leg up when it comes to providing users with more personalized recommendations and radio playlists.

For shaking up how music goes mainstream. The Harlem Shake meme defined the early part of 2013. And it was all because of how Mad Decent, the record label behind the artist Baauer, deftly reached the masses. The viral sensation sold more than one million copies and reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but Mad Decent reportedly spent less than $5,000 marketing the track–initially giving it away for free. The label also continued expanding its popular Block Party events, debuting in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa.

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