Shazam is the most important new piece of data in music streaming...

Do you Shazam? If so, you’re part of the more than one billion installed users of the audio and image app. Shazam was founded in 1999 by Chris Barton, Philip Inghelbrecht, Avery Wang, and Dhiraj Mukherjee. It was sold to Apple in 2018 for $400 million. In 2019, Apple launched the “Shazam Discovery Top 50,” a weekly, global ranking of 50 artists that it describes as “on the move and trending” — in other words, new and emerging artists. Interestingly, even though the technology has been around 20 years, most artists aren’t grasping the importance of Shazam as a piece of data showing which tracks in their catalog peek listeners curiosity and why certain tracks are converting.

Let me make this easier for you: Shazam is the most important new piece of data in music streaming…

I am no Ed Sheran (the most “Shazamed” artist of 2017). My catalog of mostly “mindful music” (read: new age and ambient) cranks away on hundreds of streaming platforms and it does pretty well. However, since the “Apple for Artists” app launched officially in August of 2019, I have been tracking my growing listener activity on their platform along with seeing how many “Shazams” I have for the week, month or year. This data has changed how I approach getting my music on playlists because of the success of certain songs. It shows playlist curators that I am an artist who people are interested in.

Right now, you might be asking yourself: “why is Shazam important”? OK. Imagine a couple out on a date in a restaurant. A song comes on while they are eating and one of the people pulls out their phone and Shazams the song. Automatically, you see the name of the artist, name of the song and the album title. You can add it to your Apple library immediately. This is what Social Media experts call “conversion”. This person spent the TIME (the most valuable resource in Social Media) to discover this music and to make it part of their collection. It’s also not far fetched to imagine that a conversation took place at that table where the other person might be induced to add that song as well. What you’ve just witnessed is one of the things that as artists we are all looking to create — fans. Well, potential fans.

If a song has good Shazam numbers, the algorithms in the Apple Music, Spotify and Amazon Prime ecosystems will know and that track will be added to MORE playlists making the track evermore popular. Yes, at this point, the growth of the song is geometric and will potentially go “viral”.

Some detractors of the Shazam phenomena point to faceless artists and soundalike music as the reason people “need to Shazam”. You can make a compelling case that we are living squarely in the age of the song and the artists that created the music are secondary. However, even as someone who is 54 years young and I have a pretty good handle on music from three decades back to today — I love Shazam as a resource especially when I hear a clever cover of a well-known song or a performance that I would like to hear again. Shazam is a remarkable technology marrying the audio fingerprint of millions of songs to a small snippet sampled out of the air in a noisy bar or restaurant.

As I have written, stated on panels and speeches and taught in my classrooms, artists must be willing to interact with their data so they can make meaningful decisions about promotion, social media posts, etc. Without information, artists are flying blind through a very dense fog called: “the music business in 2020.” Shazam data is crucial because you can see what music you have created that STOPS people and has them interested in what you’ve done. Stopping people just long enough to have them listen and hopefully like the music is all the time you’ll ever get. Use those split seconds wisely…

Emmy® Award-winning composer, record company executive, copyright expert, dad, dog owner and CrossFit newbie

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