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17 Young Innovators Shaking Up the Music Industry

Meet the next generation of app inventors, startup founders, label owners, tastemakers, managers and promoters

Music innovators

The music industry isn't dying; the old way of doing things is dying. Just ask these 17 movers and shakers, all under age 30, who are changing the game and keeping the music biz alive and well. None of them is a professional musician; they're all power players making an impact through other avenues. Some are inventing novel ways of distributing and consuming music with forward-thinking technology. Some are making old formulas new again by embracing the beauty of vinyl, or throwing dance parties – in the morning. Some are shaping the tastes and trends of rappers and ravers to come. All are bringing a fresh dose of blood, sweat and tears to the creation, discovery and sharing of music, and all see a future wide open with possibilities.

Matthew Brimer

Matthew Brimer

28
Co-founder, Daybreaker
Hard partying and late-night substance abuse go together like, well, sex, drugs and rock & roll, but Matthew Brimer is out to break that link. "There's already nightlife, but where is the morning life?" he asks. Hence, Daybreaker, an early morning, alcohol-free dance party that "aims to transform both your physical and mental well-being." The bar is stocked with coffee and juice, and the music is a mixture of local DJs and live bands. Hula hoops, dancing carrots and dudes in the corner writing free haikus have also been known to appear. Since Daybreaker's first party in New York City in 2013, Brimer has added events in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Atlanta, London, São Paulo and Tel Aviv – and more are on the way.

"People have been dancing and engaging in participatory music experiences in communities for thousands of years, and in many ways modern nightlife has lost a lot of what I think is so important and powerful when it comes to music and dance," says Brimer, who, in case it wasn't apparent from that sentence, was a sociology major at Yale. "I'm convinced that we're just on the tip of the iceberg as a society when it comes to how people connect with each other in real life, getting them off their digital devices and being humans together."

Imogene Strauss

Imogene Strauss

25
Co-founder, Cool Managers
Some people just seem fated to be cooler than the rest of us; such is life for Imogene Strauss, daughter of legendary New York City DJ and producer Justin Strauss. After graduating from college in 2011, Strauss started interning at MoMA PS1 and by the fall had been hired to produce Kraftwerk at MoMA, among other music commissions. (She still consults for PS1's trendsetting Warm Up summer music series.) At the time, she was also working in management, handling day-to-day for Solange Knowles and Devonté Hynes. In 2013, she decided to strike out on her own and co-founded Cool Managers, with Knowles, Hynes (as Blood Orange) and Majical Cloudz as its first clients. The current roster includes the latter two along with Dawn Richard, Tim Hecker, Dubbel Dutch, Nguzunguzu, Ian Isiah and Feral.

"I wanted to be able to work in a way that better suited the artists I worked with," the young tastemaker says. "My goal is always to help visionary artists do things their way and make a living doing it."           

Myles Shear

Myles Shear

22
Manager (Kygo, Thomas Jack, Riff Raff); Co-founder, EDM Sauce
Myles Shear studied music production at Full Sail University, and his career has zipped along at full sail ever since. At 19, he co-founded popular music publication EDM Sauce – which was named the Number 13 Most Influential Music Blog in the World by Style of Sound last year – and, partly through running that, he became aware of an Australian artist named Thomas Jack. An immediate fan, Shear got him to come to Florida and booked him a tour. "[Jack] actually came and lived with me, in my college dorm, on my futon," he says.

Through Jack, Shear learned about then-unknown Norwegian DJ and producer Kygo, whom he reached out to and started managing. Less than two years later, Kygo's remix of Ed Sheeran's "I See Fire" has 26 million plays on Soundcloud, and Chris Martin has asked him to create a remix for Coldplay. When we spoke with Shear, the phone line buzzed with the background sound of Kygo's entire family hanging at Shear's home fresh after the musician's performance at Miami's Ultra Music Festival. "It's kind of crazy how this all started with being involved in blogs," says Shear.

The EDM power player was also high off the success of signing a deal for Thomas Jack to host a monthly tropical house show on iHeartRadio. He believes that "next level marketing" is the future of the industry. "I'm constantly thinking, 'What am I gonna do [for my artists] tomorrow?' OK – so and so on the Kardashians, or whatever," Shears says. "Constantly thinking of ways for people to pay attention to artists is a huge challenge, [but that's what] the music industry will be revolving around."

Jordan Passman

Jordan Passman

28
Founder, ScoreAScore
Once upon a time, starving composers looking for work had to brave the wilds of Craigslist, a lawless land of unverified identities and unpaid bills. Now, they – and the companies who seek them – can turn to ScoreAScore, an online marketplace for music, voiceovers and sound design. The site was launched by then-22-year-old Jordan Passman in 2009 out of his parents' Los Angeles house. Today, the company reports 2014 revenue of $1.3 million and boasts clients ranging from Netflix and Nokia to Nintendo and NBC.

Passman believes that technology will continue to shape the music industry and that the future is bright. "There will be more music creators, more listeners, more ways to discover talent, and more platforms for interaction between members of the musical community," he enthuses. "The 'A-list' artists may not earn as much as they did during the golden age of music, [but] I think there will be more artists making a living via the industry than ever before." 

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