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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

John Williamson

Chief Executive Officer


Location: Cook County

Founded: 2016

Industry: Music & Technology

John Williamson fell in love with music when he was 6 years old and heard the Chicago Bears Super Bowl Shuffle. “I was the kid in the suburbs that ditched school every music release Tuesday to take the train to the city and pick up the latest records that I’d eventually introduce to everyone DJ’ing house parties on the weekends,” said Williamson.

He later moved into a small apartment on the north side of Chicago and transformed it into a recording studio. “That’s where I taught myself how to produce, record and mix records,” said Williamson. By 2008, he launched his first music/tech venture-funded start up that was eventually sold to Coca-Cola. Shortly after, he started an incubator/accelerator where he got the chance to explore business concepts outside of the music space. By 2016, he was ready to launch Songfinch.

Songfinch is a consumer tech company and the leading music creator platform that enables anyone to choose from thousands of professional musicians and create one-of-a-kind, custom songs. Songfinch’s mission is to create a seismic shift in the music industry by eliminating all barriers to entry, enabling anyone to participate in music regardless of talent or fame.

“John saw an opportunity to change the way artists not only put out music, but also how they interact with their audience and make money,” said his colleagues. Over the last 7+ years, Williamson has grown the company to produce $100 million in revenue annually.

“John is the perpetual underdog who has committed to an entrepreneurial journey over the last two decades to assist independent, often underrepresented, artists within the music community,” said his staff. The artist community is now more than 2,500 strong and supports the community with maintaining ownership of their work, studio time, education and extended monetization opportunities through ancillary offerings.

As a result, the company has been awarded Crain’s Fast 50, Top Places to Work and won both the Chicago Innovation Award and 1871 Momentum Award. Williamson has been a nominee for EY Entrepreneur of the Year and the Momentum Top Chicago CEO.

From a growth perspective, Williamson has led Songfinch to 25,000 percent growth over the past three years moving from one employee to 70. “We’ve built an incredibly diverse and talented team with a culture that people want to be a part of, including recruiting tech and AI, marketing and media talent from both coasts, many of which have voluntarily relocated to Chicago to be a part of the experience in-person,” said Williamson.

For following his passion and showcasing the work of artists in the Chicago area, Williamson has been named a titan.

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What is your superpower?

Passion is my superpower. I understand why I am at work everyday and instill that in my entire team. I didn’t build Songfinch because I thought it would make me rich. I built it because I love music. From skipping school as a kid to go crate digging at record stores for new albums to living the grind of an independent artist myself right here in Chicago, I’ve always understood the power of music to be life-changing. Music is widespread and loved by the masses but it’s also a deeply personal medium. Deep connections are the heart of music and the best artists are masters at conveying those connections. That’s where Songfinch was born. We’ve built a community of 1,500 artists who are pros at partnering with music fans to co-create original songs about their connections and personal stories. The once passive music fans become active creators and the end result is incredible music that speaks to them on an even deeper level. And at the same time we’ve built something revolutionary for artists. Musicians today are used to being taken advantage of and barely being able to scrape by if they have the opportunity to seriously pursue music at all. Now they’re making a living doing what they love – and using Songfinch as a springboard for album launches and even lifelong careers. Understanding why Songfinch was built, and why we come to work everyday to passionately pursue our mission is the strongest superpower in the world.


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