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Predicting Chart Toppers Before They Make the Climb Next Big Sound's data predicts music's breakout stars.

By Jesse Dittmar

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Earlier this year, rap sensation Iggy Azalea became the first artist since the Beatles to secure the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously with her first two charting singles. That was no surprise to Next Big Sound, which had Azalea on its end-of-2013 list of artists most likely to hit the Billboard Hot 100 in 2014.

In collecting data from more than 15 social media sources, Next Big Sound has given the slumping music industry a vital new tool to understand how "these social signals relate to the underlying business," says Alex White, who founded New York-based Next Big Sound with his Northwestern University classmates Samir Rayani and David Hoffman.

The trio's original vision for the company was quite different; they wanted to create a fantasy music league in which participants could build their ideal record label. That concept got them accepted to the Techstars accelerator in 2009, but on the first day in the program, they realized their objective wasn't sustainable. It did have its merits, however. "What had gotten us really excited about the [fantasy league] was the data and what we could do with it," White explains. So with Techstars' guidance, the three shifted gears and created a business app to measure fans' engagement around their favorite acts.

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