Sound innovation

At ICON we’ve always got one eye on the start up scene – we’ve been printing merch for some of the hottest tech companies in the UK and never cease to be impressed by the innovation and creativity coming out of London, where we’re based.

Every year we see a new wave of start ups. We’ve drawn attention to some of the best tech companies in London, the individuals making a big impression and the unique femtech companies emerging in recent years. This time we wanted to highlight some of the music tech companies making (sound) waves in the industry.

New music has always been driven by advances in technology, since all instruments are the products of human invention. As our technological possibilities have expanded, so have our musical horizons: we have heard pianos which play themselves, drums composed with computers, even entire orchestras conducted via smartphone.

So in this age of rapid tech expansion, it’s no surprise that some British music startups are finding innovative gaps in the music industry, on both the business and creative sides. One of the key nodes in this network is the Abbey Road Red Incubator, the prestigious studio’s bold voyage into the musical future. Out of Abbey Road alumni and some of their hottest competition, we’ve picked out the country’s most interesting music start ups.


Music written by artificial intelligence has the slight ring of Black Mirror to it, but hold your judgement. This London-based start up, launched by two musicians, has already written more than a million songs. Crucially, JukeDeck is not trying to take over the music industry, but rather provide affordable music to people who can’t afford royalties, such as Youtube video creators or short film directors. 

Pirate Studios

On the management side of the industry, this Bristol-based start up has earned attention for its 24-hour production studios where artists can record, livestream and share music. Pirate Studios recently raised $20m in funding, and have already opened 350 studios across the UK, Germany and America.


This clever app is aimed at the composers. 130,000 people are already using it to write musical scores collaboratively. Flat has a particular interest in music education, having recently joined Google’s academic Classroom project.


As a Youtube content creator, it’s tempting to use music you love without paying royalties, but this could get you banned and threaten valuable ad revenue. Lickd streamlines the music licensing process, and boasts investors including Pink Floyd’s co-founder Nick Mason.


London music tech company ROLI focuses on high-tech instruments, starting with the futuristic Seaboard, which recast the humble keyboard in supple silicone, and has already been used by artists like Grimes and Hans Zimmer. They now develop everything from handheld drumpads to stage-ready synthesizers. 


If you’ve ever tried editing together a music video, you’ll know how tricky and time-consuming the process can be. MXX helps automate the process, so you can use simple drag-and-drop tools to mould music to a video, creating surging build-ups, gentle fades and explosive climaxes with the click of a mouse.

AI Music

Why listen to music when your music could be listening to you? AI Music offers innovative software that wants to create a dynamic relationship between people and their music. Play your favourite song, and it will shape-change according to context: in the morning it’ll be a gentle acoustic ballad, but morph into a pumping electronic remix when you hit the gym.


This online music discovery platform was launched in 2017, and uses an AI engine to tailor content to user preferences. With a range of mixes, radio, interviews, documentaries and podcasts and offer, Keakie wants to redefine how people discover great music away from the algorithms of Youtube and Spotify.


Imagine speech recognition, but without the words. Using Vochlea, you can use your voice to create any instrument — beatbox and it’ll turn the sound into drums, hum and you’ll get the strumming of a guitar. This could revolutionise music production for those who never learned to play an instrument.


This app from Brian Eno and Peter Chilvers is a game, an instrument and an art project all in one. Scape uses bold visual cues as a musical playbox, allowing users to generate their own ambient soundscapes and perhaps compose their own music for airports in fine Eno tradition.

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