9. Spotify

Digital music service

Daniel Ek, co-founder and CEO of Spotify
Source: Spotify
Daniel Ek, co-founder and CEO of Spotify

Founders: Daniel Ek (CEO), Martin Lorentzon
Date launched:
$537.8 million
Industry disrupted:
Disrupting: Apple, Pandora, SiriusXM
Competition: Grooveshark, Rdio, SoundCloud

It's hard to believe that there was ever a time when you heard a great song on the radio and then ran down to the local record shop to buy it on a CD. These days, companies such as Spotify let music lovers access music from a wide range of artists on their desktop computers, tablets or mobile device and create playlists to suit any occasion or mood.

Spotify offers several tiers of membership. The free version is advertiser-supported—meaning that your music will be interrupted with ads. The premium service, at $9.99 per month, is advertising-free and lets you cache music for later listening on your computer, tablet or mobile device.


In May the company announced it had signed up 10 million paying customers for its premium service and now has more than 40 million active users worldwide. The backdrop against which Spotify and other similiar offerings, such as Pandora, operate is the ongoing battle on royalties paid to recording artists.

Spotify claims that by persuading customers to upgrade to its paid services, it actually can help increase royalty revenue for songwriters and singers. Artists, not surprisingly, have a different take on the situation, pointing to the mere pennies they make per song from Spotify and others like it. That battle will likely rage on for years, but in the meantime, services like Spotify will help music fans get their fix.

On the company's disruptive impact:

"Spotify really is the only music player you’ll ever need. Our users don’t want to have to switch between music players, but they do want to take their playlists with them wherever they go." -Daniel Ek, co-founder and CEO


Latest Special Reports

  • Top States 2016

    CNBC's annual study measures all 50 states on more than 60 different metrics.

  • People walk amongst aircraft exhibited on the tarmac during the opening of the International Paris Airshow at Le Bourget on June 15, 2015.

    The International Paris Air Show is celebrating its 52nd anniversary this year with the big movers and shakers in the aerospace and defense industry all attending the event.

  • CNBC’s “Trailblazers” travels across the globe bringing insight into some of the world’s key cities through the eyes of the celebrities that live there.