I have long been a supporter of streaming, as highlighted in my previous Midem blogs. In June 2014, it was reported there were 260 million audio tracks being streamed per week. With the vast array of streaming services that exist today, through a variety of different accessibility points – for example Deezer being free on certain Orange tariffs and O2 Tracks costing £1 per week to streamthe Top 40 tracks in the UK. The introduction of streaming into the official charts at the beginning of July highlighted how streaming for casual listeners to passionate music lovers, is gradually becoming the norm. I would argue that with accessibility to music being in its prime, the need for ease of identifying music has never been more significant.
With less than a handful of music identification services out there, it’s interesting to see how services such as Shazam and SoundHound have come to play a crucial part in the music industry in supporting music discovery. In order to be fully effective, they need to present users with a seamless journey from initial discovery to a potential purchase of, or full stream of a track.
Described as one of the World’s most recognizable mobile brands, Shazam is in a league of its own and with a reported 475 million users around the world. It’s the automatic go-to for anyone who wants to identify a piece of music. Through huge development within the Shazam app since its origin in 2002, to add value for labels when their artists tracks are “tagged” the company has worked to cement its place in the industry. The strength of the app today, is the information that is presented to a user after tagging a track, which crucially includes: a purchase link to iTunes and streaming links to Deezer and Rdio. From this development, it was stated in November 2013 that the app has resulted in “driving the sale of more than 500,000 music downloads a day – more than 7% of global digital track sales”.
It was announced last week that Shazam had partnered with Rdio. The partnership enables seamless streaming of tracks that users tag within Shazam, taking away the need for users to have to leave the app. Tagged songs are also automatically added to a users playlist within Rdio, adding another level of support to the service and encouragement for users to re-listen to newly discovered tracks. As Shazam’s Chief Product Officer Daniel Danker highlighted at launch, Shazam are “turning streaming into a first-class partner”. There may be a question of why Rdio was the chosen partner for this feature, although as reported a few months back Shazam cut ties with Spotify in preference to link users to Deezer and Rdio for streaming. But, the drive to Rdio is definitely a questionable move for us here in the UK, where Rdio streams are not currently chart eligible.
Another interesting feature that Shazam rolled out this year to encourage discovery, was an automatic music-tagging feature. If a user chooses to have the feature on, Auto Shazam runs in the background of their device, identifying any songs, TV shows, adverts that it can recognise, and stores them for later reference. All tracks that are heard have their audio finger-print stored within a users app, but will only be identified as a “tag” once a user interacts with a track within their app. Due to the amount of music we are all exposed to on a daily and hourly basis, this feature is an exciting prospect for music discovery. It has been reported that the feature was a huge success during the 2014 Superbowl, where more than 90,000 – or nearly 15% of identifications during this timeframe were made via Auto Shazam: a huge number of potential streams and new fans for artists.
Another aspect of discovery and support of streaming that Shazam have driven in the past year, has been in front-line promotion, premiering new content within the app. Earlier in the year, the first promotion of this kind saw Chromeo’s ‘Come Alive’ video premiered via Shazam in conjunction with SoundCloud. To be able to get an exclusive first look at the video, fans needed to tag the SoundCloud audio stream, which then linked them to the video within the Shazam app. Back in March the app premiered Linkin Park’s ‘Guilty of the Same’. In a variation on the theme – anyone who used Shazam were presented with a link to promote the new Linkin Park track. Previous users who had tagged any Linkin Park track received a notification that the new single was available to be heard within the app. In all, cases the content could also be found in the app’s newsfeed. The real significance of these types of promotion is that they are just the initial step in capturing users attention, to then lead on to further discovery of an artist’s catalogue and potentially upsell to streaming or iTunes purchases.
Whilst Shazam is the market leader, it is not the only music identification service to exist. US based SoundHound surpassed 200 million users around the world in April of this year, which is definitely not a number to ignore. With a similar background to Shazam, where SoundHound differs, is that, in addition to recognizing audio from recordings, it is possible to also identify tracks from singing, humming and speaking. In keeping with Shazam, SoundHound have a number of similar features that have been rolled out during the year. Beating Shazam to the post, it was announced in February that SoundHound had partnered with Spotify to give users the ability to add their tagged songs to a Spotify playlist without having to leave the app. It would be a huge step forward if SoundHound go on to follow suit with Shazam and in the future enable the ability to stream tracks via Spotify without users having to leave the app. Baring in mind that Spotify has now hit 10 million paying subscribers, this feature would hot up SoundHound’s trail of Shazam.
To tie-in with the Grammy’s 2014, SoundHound developed a dedicated page within its app to provide augmented content and an immersive experience during the show. During the show, users watching on TV could SoundHound the live broadcast to see the name of artists performing along with real-time information about the ceremony including winners, and the latest tweets official Grammys hashtag. A great way to boost, granted in the majority, mainly already hugely successful artists and tracks, but again a great way to funnel users to go on to stream or download tracks that they had tagged. Interestingly, following this year’s Grammy’s, Shazam reported that they received over a million tags during the broadcast – with click-through (to iTunes/ Amazon) were reportedly 54,000, whilst it seems that SoundHound did not make their numbers.
Looking to the future, earlier in the year, Facebook developed its own audio ID recognition service. Although only currently available in the US, the opt-in feature enables iOS and Android users the option to enable their phone’s microphone to recognize a song that they are listening to (or TV show/ film they are watching) and tag it in their News Feed. From this point, friends can then listen to 30-second song previews (or be directed to a TV show/ films’ page). It has been reported that users can currently listen to song previews via Spotify, Rdio and Deezer. Once fully rolled-out Worldwide it’s going to be interesting to see what impact this might have on Shazam. Plus, how it may shift the current conversational landscape of social media – it seems highly unlikely to take over, but audio ID should really drive music exchanges to happen on Facebook, particularly with the use of hashtags now on the service.
Following BBC Radio 1 boss, George Ergatoudis recent statement that Shazam is “the most reliable new data source of recent times”, it’s going to be interesting to see how this and hopefully, Facebook’s audio ID, will be able to continue to add to the music industry, supporting the development of discovery and growth of new music.