“When I hear his voice, I just lose it.” That’s what Elton John had to say about Gallant shortly before they performed the young singer’s breakout hit, “Weight in Gold,” together in London last September. Born Christopher Gallant III, he graduated from New York University in 2012 and moved to Los Angeles to build his own, unique sound, blending elements of R&B, alternative rock, soul and electronic music.
His 2016 debut, Ology, is up for a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album, and he averages 1.2 million listeners per month on Spotify alone. In 2016 he took his act on the road, doing 77 shows in eight countries. That’s just the beginning, as far as he’s concerned: “I honestly don’t think that I’ve necessarily had my big break yet.”
Gallant is our callout for this year’s 30 Under 30 Music category Class of 2017, a group that includes many of the singers, songwriters, managers and entrepreneurs revolutionizing the modern music business. To select the list, we turned to three notable alums: singer-songwriter Halsey, pop prince Jason Derulo and manager-investor Anthony Saleh, who has guided the careers–and startup portfolios–of Nas and others.
The judges have gotten to where they are by often relying on their instincts–even when that’s at odds with what they hear from the people around them.
“I was given terrible advice my whole life, from teachers telling me that my dream was not the proper way, that I should probably be doing classical music so that I could get myself into college,” Derulo tells Forbes. “I think it’s important for you to stay true to yourself … I tried to be somebody else for a very long time, and it’s very difficult.”
The same could be said for many of the acts on this year’s list. Take Logic, who has become a rap star partly by embracing his inner video-game-loving geek and now grosses $170,000 per city on the road. Or Maddie & Tae, who became Nashville royalty nearly overnight with the stereotype-defying “Girl In A Country Song.” Or The Chainsmokers’ Drew Taggart, who overcame the one-hit-wonder label of debut single “#Selfie” by recording hits like “Closer” with Halsey and “Don’t Let Me Down” with listmate Daya.
Some have already achieved massive financial success, like Big Bang. The K-Pop boyband earned $44 million last year, No. 54 among the world’s highest-paid celebrities–and easily more than top U.S. all-male groups like Maroon 5. Members of Big Bang are still catching up to their own prosperity. “We made more than Maroon 5?” said front man Kwon “G-Dragon” Jiyong, through a translator. “Did not know that. My mom is in charge of my earnings.”
Others are much earlier in their careers. Desiigner, 19, rose to mainstream consciousness with “Panda,” a single that spent 40 weeks on the charts and went triple-platinum, while fellow 19-year-old Lil Yachty got his break when his track “Minnesota” aired on Drake’s OVO Sound Beats 1 show. The youngest? The aforementioned Daya, 18. But she’s off to quite a start: “Don’t Let Me Down” has already clocked more than 700 million spins on Spotify.
More than one-third of our list is made up of behind-the-scenes movers and shakers, many of them working closely with list alums. As creative director for The Weeknd, La Mar Taylor crafts elaborate stage sets viewed by hundreds of thousands of fans at concerts. Chance the Rapper’s manager Pat Corcoran had a hand in the Coloring Book album that caused the Grammys to allow streaming-only records to be considered for awards (Chance is up for six this year). Says Saleh: “Lamar and Pat are very, very important guys to the culture.”
Other highlights include teams of Under 30 founders working together. The trio of Christine McCharen-Tran, Frankie Decaiza Hutchinson and Emma Burgess-Olson founded Discwoman, a booking agency aimed at bringing greater diversity to electronic music. Anthony Li and Jason Aron managed the living, breathing startup known as Halsey all the way from playing small clubs to selling out Madison Square Garden.
“The two of them were self-made,” says Halsey. “They knew how to take something from the counterculture and bring it to the mainstream, and that’s why I think we’ve had the kind of success we’ve had.”
Find more about our complete list of 30 Under 30 here.