Best apps for iOS: the magic of Shazam success

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Shazam — one of the most famous, popular and successful mobile applications, every day helping music lovers around the world to add new music finds to their playlists.

It often happens that when you hear the melody you like, you do not know the name of the composition or the artist. Today, you just need to run the Shazam app on your smartphone, bring it to the sound source and wait for the program to recognize the track and give all the necessary information: the name of the track, the name of the artist, links to the words of the song, a video clip (if any), the artist’s biography, data about tickets for his “live” performances and the music recommended for you on the basis of the recognized track.  Shazam will immediately offer to buy or listen to your favorite song through one of the popular music online services.

The idea of remote music recognition using a mobile phone microphone, which is based on Shazam, came to mind American student Chris Barton in 1999, long before the iPhone and AppStore. Chris and his future partner, co-founder of Shazam Philip Engelbrecht, studied together at the University of California at the faculty of computer technology, dreaming of creating their own successful startup in the Wake of the then gaining strength in Silicon Valley Internet boom. At that time, there were already services in the US that could help you know what song had just been heard on the radio, but Barton and Engelbrecht wanted to create a technology for real-time recognition of melodies that play in bars, clubs, shops and other public places. To develop a music recognition algorithm, the companions hired Avery Wang, a talented engineer, an employee of the center for computer research of music and Acoustics at Stanford University, who became the third co-founder of Shazam. The uniqueness of the algorithm, developed by Wang, was the selection of peak values of sound frequencies with virtually error-free filtering of background noise, which made it possible to achieve high recognition accuracy: only 1 of 300 000 tracks was recognized incorrectly.

Cris Burton, founder of Shazam radionovela and the first CEO of Shazam, Chris Barton

The first money for the startup partners took from relatives and friends, and then in search of investment went to Europe. In London to startup, as the fourth founder joined Dhiraj Mukherjee, an employee of a large company Viant, who owned the once popular online service MySpace. The European market of mobile operators of the beginning of two-thousand was much more saturated and competitive than the American one. European mobile operators were the first to provide an opportunity to send SMS for payment of various services. In 2001, Shazam attracted the first large investments, due to the familiarity of the founders with venture capitalist and a big fan of music by Its Chowdhury of IDG Ventures Europe. A year later, Shazam service began working in London. Then, to find out the name of the song and its performer, you had to dial the paid number 2580, bring your mobile phone to the sound source and wait for a little. A few seconds later, an SMS message came with information about the melody. It looked like the first monetization model Shazam. However, according to the statistics collected for the first time, the user of the SMS service on average used it only three times, which automatically made Shazam a rather niche and unprofitable product.

Chris, Dhiraj and Avery madaris, Dhiraj and Avery in the first office Shazam

The next stage was the creation of a digital music database, which involved the conclusion of contracts with the owners for access to their music libraries. The cost of buying rights to audio recordings was huge because it was necessary to take into account all the variety of musical tastes of potential users. In addition to money, the founders of Shazam offered the right holders their services in digitizing music, in the future getting the right to use the resulting digital music recordings for recognition.

In 2004, with the support of the mobile operator AT & T Shazam started in the United States, but at first, the service was not very successful at home. In one interview, Chris Barton himself admitted that Shazam was ahead of his time and the world of push-button mobile phones was simply not ready for it. The startup had to constantly look for new investors. After some time, all the founders, except CTO (technical Director) Avery Wang, sell their shares in the company and leave it. Wang hires the new Executive Director, Andrew Fisher – at that time the head of the European office Infospace. The company is going through hard times.

Avery’s workings on the original Shazam algorithm drafts of the algorithm Shazam

With the advent of the iPhone and the AppStore, Shazam is a real success. For the first time, iPhone users are able to easily download apps to their devices. In a short time, Shazam for iOS is downloaded from the AppStore about 10 million times. By the number of downloads, Shazam is ahead of the most popular application in the American AppStore — the official Twitter client. Avalanche success allows launching Shazam in 150 countries of the world in the next 2 years, having signed contracts with 350 mobile operators. By 2011, the user base of the application had already numbered about 100 million users, and the annual income of the company was $20 million.

Shazam radionovela Founders: Philip Inghelbrecht, Avery Wang, Chris Barton, Dhiraj Mukherjee

The basic algorithm and operating principle of Shazam today has not changed — the application still helps to recognize music. The service monetization model has changed significantly. Shazam now sells music and advertising and provides major music labels such as Warner Music Group with paid access to their user data. Music labels actively use this information to analyze the target audience when creating new hits. In 2015, cooperation with music labels became the main source of income for Shazam: the total revenue from this business amounted to $300 million.

Today, Shazam recognizes the track, but you can only listen to a song fragment in the app for free. To hear the full track, you need to go to the app of one of the partner services, for example, Apple Music. In August 2016, the Russian service Zvooq became a partner of Shazam, the service button is now integrated into the interface of Shazam and allows users to listen to the song they are interested in. Shazam is also negotiating a similar cooperation with Yandex.Music.»

Success made Shazam a household name. Services using the principle of comparison and recognition are now called “Shazam for something” – for example, there are Shazam for fonts, Shazam for furniture and Shazam for clothes. The company is clearly not going to stop there and introduces algorithms for image, video and text recognition into its product. Shazam audience today is more than 400 million users in 200 countries. Last year, the company was valued at more than a billion dollars. Every day more than 20 million tracks are recognized by users of the application.

So what does the word “Shazam” mean? According to company founder Chris Barton, ” Shazam!— is a magical exclamation that is usually pronounced by a wizard before magic happens. If still, you did not get to experience the magic, you may want to try Shazam?