Shazam Overhauls Its App to Take on iTunes and Pandora

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Before Apple’s App Store even
existed, Shazam was helping people
instantly identify the music they
were listening to via text message.
But despite the company’s early
lead in the digital music market
and its enormous base of users—the
Shazam smartphone app has been
downloaded 500 million times—it
still owns a comparatively small
piece of the overall digital music
pie. But now, it’s angling for a
bigger one.

On Wednesday, Shazam launched
an update to both its app and its
website. Until now, people have
primarily used the app to identify
songs and keep lists of songs
they’ve previously identified. But
the new app emphasizes finding
new music—not just identifying
what you’ve already found—with
charts that show which tracks are
trending in the app, when, and
where. It also includes an Amazon-
style recommendation engine to
help users discover new music.
Through an integration with
Spotify, it will now let you actually
play those tracks within Shazam
itself (if you’re a Spotify member).
And the company is launching its
own music Hall of Fame for songs
that have been Shazamed at least 5
million times.

To the untrained eye, these may
appear to be cosmetic changes. And
yet, they stand to make Shazam a
much larger threat to some of the
biggest brands in music, from
Pandora to Billboard. Shazam has a
unique perspective on the music
industry, because it gets to see
what is going to be popular before
it’s popular. It’s a phenomenon that
chief product officer Daniel Danker
calls “the Shazam effect.”
“Shazam’s an app you use when
you’re hearing something you like
and want to find out what it is,” he
says. “We build an amazing set of
data around future hits and can
essentially predict the consumption
behavior in the music world.”
That type of data, he argues, makes
Shazam a better place for music
lovers to discover truly new songs
and artists, and it’s equally critical
to all the radio programmers and
music labels who are always hungry
for their next big hit. The new
souped up app and website are
meant to appease both audiences.

Shazam’s task is to educate users
on all the different ways they can
use the app. Some of that can be
handled with design. For instance,
before, when users opened Shazam,
all they’d see was a big blue
button. Push the button, and
Shazam would identify whatever
song (or television show or
advertisement, in recent years) was
playing. Now, however, the button
shares the home screen with a
chart of trending Shazams as well
as a news feed, personalized based
on each user’s tastes.
Design, however, can only go so far.
Shifting consumer attention away
from massive platforms like
Pandora and Spotify and onto
Shazam is sure to be a major
challenge for the company in the
coming years. And yet, according to
Danker, that’s the goal. “I think we
all arrived at this conclusion over
the last year that where we wanted
to take this was to make Shazam
the center of your music world,” he
says. “It already is in individual
ways, but we have the ability to
take it to such greater heights.”
Shazam

SHAZAM HAS A UNIQUE PERSPECTIVE
ON THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, BECAUSE
IT GETS TO SEE WHAT IS GOING TO
BE POPULAR BEFORE IT’S POPULAR.

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