Thanks largely to the iPhone, Shazam, a mobile music discovery application, is on its way to becoming a household verb. Here’s how it works: You hear a song you want to identify — whether on the radio or store loudspeakers. You turn on Shazam, hold your phone up and the program starts recording an audio clip. Within five seconds, it will “tag” the song’s name, who is singing and what album it’s from. You can also share songs with your friends; look up lyrics, album reviews and artist biographies; and buy the songs on iTunes after tagging it.
According to the company, more than 35 million have used Shazam to tag songs since it launched in 2002. The company, with an 8 million song database and relationships with 75 carriers in 60 countries, has launched mobile platforms not only for the iPhone but also for RIM/BlackBerry, Samsung and Google Android, and it just recently announced a partnership with Nokia for its Ovi.
For the music industry, however, proof of its worth lies in how it can gauge audience interest for pre-released material. Shazam uploads new music daily from record labels into its databases. The labels use the application to gauge market interest and predict future hits. During the first week of August, for example, the Black Eyed Peas topped Shazam’s U.S. Tag Chart with “I Gotta Feelin’ ” while Colombian pop star Shakira’s “She Wolf” also landed on the chart.
Musicians also attest to how useful the app is: DJ Asher Gray (aka Diamonds), half of the electropop band the Glamour, says he uses Shazam a lot, especially because many of the songs he’s interested in are on mixtapes or
DJ sets. “It’s named some pretty obscure tracks that I’ve been searching for, like ‘If I Gave You a Party (Syrup Version)’ by funk band Sexual Harrassment,” Gray recalls.
The launch of the iPhone application store created an important technological shift: More users are relying on mobile units for their computing activities, so now you can tag a song and buy it instantly, and personalize each “music moment” using photos that you can save with each song.
Apple declines to comment on exactly how many songs are bought on iTunes via Shazam. And even as Shazam is partnering with more service providers and handset makers, many other applications are trying to match Shazam’s feat. Midomi, for example, is an application that will identify any song — even ones you sing or hum into your phone.