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35 Innovators Under 35

Entrepreneurs

These innovators are creating businesses that will upend markets or create new ones.

Alex Ljung, 32

SoundCloud is changing how music gets made.

Q: How did you come to create a service that is like a YouTube for music, letting people upload and embed tracks, find new artists, and leave comments while listening to songs?

A: After high school, I started working as a sound designer in a postproduction studio in Stockholm. I would do sound effects and music for movies and for TV. [When] I started studying engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, that’s where I met Eric [Wahlforss], my cofounder, who it turned out had a very similar background. We were both recording and creating music and sound, and we just didn’t have a good way of being able to share it with each other and then get some feedback on it. 

Q: In the beginning, a small group of musicians used SoundCloud to share their songs. Now it reaches more than 250 million listeners per month. How are they using it?

A: What’s really cool about it is that it affords a lot of different user experiences. We have somebody who might just open up their phone and say “Oh great, there’s a brand-new track from 50 Cent. I just want to listen to this one now and enjoy it.” And then on the other side of the spectrum, you have these more intense engagements. Snoop Dogg has used it to find a bunch of artists that he wants to work with. He found this artist Iza Lach from Poland and signed her to his record label.

Q: How is this reshaping the music business?

A: We have people who could be anywhere in the world at the moment, creating a completely new genre that hasn’t been known before, and within a very short amount of time, that may be the biggest thing in the world. I still think it’s amazing that not even two years ago Lorde was just a young artist in New Zealand that nobody knew of. And [after releasing her first songs through SoundCloud] all of a sudden she’s one of the largest stars in the world, topping all the charts. That kind of speed is something that is really interesting.

—Kristin Majcher

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