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.
Shazam has a unique perspective on the music industry, because it gets to see what is going to be popular before it’s popular.
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.”