10 reasons why Apple should acquire Shazam

Apple confirms it is buying Shazam, the leading music recognition service. Here are just 10 reasons why the deal makes sense.

Apple, Shazam, iOS, iPhone, Music, Apple Music, Siri

TechCrunch claims Apple will purchase leading music recognition service, Shazam. Apple has now confirmed the deal. Here are just 10 reasons such a deal makes sense:

Shazam’s Apple story

Founded in 1999, Shazam first came to prominence on Apple’s platforms as a great tool for iPod users. Years later, it became one of the first apps to appear on the App Store, and it was one of the first available iPad apps too.

"Shazam was one of the inaugural apps available when the App Store launched nearly two years ago and we are delighted to be available for iPad at launch as well,” said Andrew Fisher, CEO of Shazam at the time.

This long story has other chapters, of course, but for Apple, the notion of bringing such an important historical partner into the fold has a built-in synchronicity that has stood the test of time.

In a statement first supplied to 9to5Mac, Apple said:

"We are thrilled that Shazam and its talented team will be joining Apple. Since the launch of the App Store, Shazam has consistently ranked as one of the most popular apps for iOS. Today, it’s used by hundreds of millions of people around the world, across multiple platforms.

"Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users. We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today’s agreement."

Highly connected

Shazam has extensive connections across the music and tech industries. It has been made available across multiple platforms and devices. By the end of 2009, it was available on over 250 million devices, today it has been downloaded by over as billion smartphones.

Shazam has consistently managed to build its music recognition database faster than anyone else.

“With our strong music alliances, we gain access to the most relevant music well before many other music services, which ensures users can discover popular and niche music all over the globe,” said Will Mills, then Head of Music, Shazam in 2008. 

At the moment, Shazam on iPhone lets users identifying tracks find them on iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube.

With over 100 million monthly users, the service is clearly highly popular on all platforms — will Apple simply stop offering the service to other platforms? Or will it use the service as a way to reach the world’s most committed music lovers (the ones most curious about music) in order to persuade them to join Apple Music?

Meet the experts

You would have to be deliberately blind to miss how deeply Apple has been investing in music industry expertise: its Beats purchase, leading international DJs, its investments in teams of music writers to help curate Music playlists and create descriptive copy and so much more.

Bringing the experts from Shazam in house is an extension of that. This deep bench of music expertise means Apple can continue to develop ways to tie human-based music curation to AI, perhaps enabling the kind of unique music introduction and discovery we once found at enthusiast music stores.

Apple Music currently has 30 million subscribers in contrast to 60 million paying Spotify subscribers.

Improving user engagement

Apple also wants to get its users active.

Shazam’s technologies already help users build and create better music playlists. Its recommendation algorithms are excellent, partly because they have been built in response to the music preferences of the world’s most active music listeners across every platform.

Apple must hope Shazam will improve Apple Music to make the service more attractive to all users, and more extensively useful to those who already subscribe to the service. One way it might achieve this is by delivering much improved personal playlist creation and sharing in competition with that flagship Spotify feature.

It’s more than music

Shazam is innovative in how it builds around its core music recognition business. It has moved beyond simple music purchasing options to bring streaming music service integration, ticketing and other product-related features into the frame.

Shazam playlists have become useful heat indicators for labels. The service has also woven in features of huge interest to music lovers, from artist biographies to lyrics, and more.

Apple Music competes in a highly competitive space. It makes sense for Apple to begin to build out other products and services (such as ticketing, merchandise and other related materials) from within its app.

Shazam’s proven capacity to scale in such directions may be part of its appeal.

That television thing

Shazam has used its network of mobile devices to launch advertising partnerships, AR apps — there is even a U.S. TV game show hosted by actor Jamie Foxx, called Beat Shazam. The latter is currently on Fox, but why wouldn’t its future be as an Apple Music TV exclusive?

Apple’s apparent focus on developing exclusive video content for Apple Music subscribers is well storied at this point, but a Shazam purchase would give the company control of the primary technology used in an existing music-related TV show.

Augmented reality

Shazam already does more than music. It can recognize clips of classical music, TV shows, films and adverts. It introduced visual recognition abilities with obvious implications on Apple and AR way back in 2015. What would you expect to see if you pointed your iPhone at the globally famous Abbey Road crossing and hummed a bar or two of a Beatles track? Apple may now be in position to provide the tools developers can use to build AR solutions like these.

Siri’s Achilles’ heel

One recent report observed that Siri just wasn’t as good at fulfilling spoken music requests as its competitors. The move to acquire Shazam in combination with other improvements in the Siri app should help narrow that gap.

Narrowing that gap is essential if Apple wants to ensure the high-quality audio experience it wants to focus on when it finally does introduce the HomePod.

It’s also possible that part of the motivation for this acquisition (as well as the recent PopUp Archive purchase) is to make HomePod a more efficient and effective music product. Apple works hard to reach those customer satisfaction levels, after all.

All about the data

Shazam is years ahead of Apple in terms of music recognition and discovery. Way back in 2008 (one year after the first iPhone debut) the company already recognized 8 million tracks. It now has a huge database of such requests.

A recent Shazam blog also discussed how it has developed new technologies to deliver deeper access to older content in response to things like genre, mood and more.

All this data and ways of using the data can be amplified by comparing them against Apple’s other proprietary data sets. Shazam’s huge collection of information about people’s music tastes and use could conceivably be unlocked to reveal actionable and useful media-related insights with an impact across Apple’s media-related products.

All about you

The one more thing in this is that most data analytics experts now agree that the value of vast data troves like this are not limited to their topic area, but by what additional insights they reveal when combined with other information.

For example, combining music recognition data with weather information and data concerning flu outbreaks could conceivably reveal something non-linear that may have a useful and actionable impact on people.

Ultimately, while maintaining user privacy, Apple could unlock fast big data-based solutions to problems people don’t yet know they have, simply by controlling a wide number of not obviously related data sets. And analyzing those sets for those less visible conclusions.

Do you use Shazam? How can Apple integrate the service across its platforms? Let me know.

Updated: Nov. 11, 2017, when Apple confirmed the deal.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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