It’s been a good year for Mac Miller. The 19-year-old rapper played over 200 shows around the country, pumped his Twitter following past 1.4 million and released his debut album, Blue Slide Park, which became the first indie offering to open at No. 1 on the Billboard charts in over a decade.
“Making history is super-cool,” he says, lounging on a plush burgundy chair at the Forbes headquarters in New York. “I still don’t think I necessarily ‘made it’ … my whole thing is always, no matter where I get, to never be satisfied.”
For now, Miller can add another accolade to his résumé: member of the first annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the music category. He’s joined by a broad range of artists, producers, entrepreneurs and executives who are all shaping the future of the music business in different ways.
This year’s roster was handpicked by a panel of expert judges—Randy Phillips, chief of concert promoter AEG Live; Livia Tortella, co-president of Warner Brothers Records; and David Banner, the Grammy-winning rapper and producer—in conjunction with yours truly.
The central question: Who will be the most influential figures in the music business over the next two decades?
There are some familiar names on the list, to be sure. Honorees including Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Lil Wayne and Katy Perry all appeared in ourCeleb 100 issue in June. We reserved 20 slots for recording artists across all genres, though, and many of them aren’t yet household names. There’sEsperanza Spalding, 27, the jazz musician who upset Justin Bieber to win the award for Best New Artist at last year’s Grammys; Conrad Tao, a 17-year-old piano-and-violin prodigy who gave his first recital at age four; and Skrillex, 23, an up-and-coming musician of a very different genre.
“[Skrillex is] a young producer who’s really helped put dubstep and electronic dance music on the map in the U.S.,” says Banner. “He also just received five Grammy nominations.”
Full coverage: 30 Under 30 – Music
Ten places on the list were set aside for music industry players whose primary focus isn’t performing. Three examples: Alex White, 25, a former Universal Music Group intern who founded Next Big Sound, a startup that provides artists and labels with advanced metrics to measure social media campaigns; Kyle Frenette, the 24-year-old manager of Grammy-nominated group Bon Iver; and Spencer Richardson, 27, founder of FanBridge, a company that helps artists market to fans with the help of direct email and spiffy analytics.
“Understanding the relationship with the fan and the lifetime value of a customer is what FanBridge is all about,” says Tortella. “It’s the future of music marketing.”
30 Under 30 in Music: Honorable Mentions
We certainly didn’t forget about Daniel Ek, 28, the founder of digital music service Spotify—he made the list in the Technology category, and is the subject of the cover story for the entire 30 Under 30 package. His 26-year-old colleague D.A. Wallach, the company’s artist in residence, is Spotify’s representative on the music list.
Expect to hear more from all the up-and-comers on this list as the years go on. As for Mac Miller, he’s looking well beyond the coming decade.
“My aspirations are very big,” he says. “I want to be remembered forever.”
For more on the business of music, see my book Empire State of Mind: How Jay-Z Went From Street Corner to Corner Office
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