Shazam, that inconspicuous little app that you forget you have until you’re overwhelmed with the sound of something completely fresh to your ears. Be careful not to underestimate it however, far from the techy gimmick that many assumed it was when the app launched, Shazam is infact having a profound effect on the way the music industry operates.
Let’s go back a few years to the age of the “tastemaker”. Not so long ago our ears were very much at the whim of a very small group of influential people, record companies, DJ’s, Journalists and advertising companies. If you wanted your song heard by the masses, you had to go through one or more of these routes. No matter how good your sound was, if a John Peel or a Connor Mcnicholas of the NME didn’t hear it, you’d have a hard time getting anyone to listen to your music.
“People Shazam music they like but don’t recognise. Record companies have taken this into account”.
Plenty of unsigned or unheard artists have gotten their big break simply by being picked up by an outlet with a huge audience. Remember The O.C.? Not only did Phantom Planet’s “California” become a smash hit, but the programme became a platform for breaking unsigned acts in the early 2000s. As soon as your song was heard on one of these platforms, you had made it.
So where does Shazam come in I hear you ask? Surely it just streamlines the process of finding out who sings the songs you hear on these platforms? Originally this was the case, however by tracking which songs people were Shazaming, the relationship between consumer and “taste maker” has been turned on it’s head.
Daniel Danker, the chief product officer at Shazam, makes the important point that people Shazam music they like but don’t recognise. Record companies have taken this into account, and Shazam has become like an A&R tool for them to gauge what people respond to.
Bands such as The Score were picked by ASDA precisely because they were unsigned. Their track “Oh My Love” became the most Shazamed track of the year, and its rankings in the Shazam chart were mirrored on iTunes, leading to a record deal. This trend has continued to grow exponentially just as the billion pound business has.
“The biggest effect of Shazam however is the shift in relationship between consumer and “tastemaker””.
Perhaps the biggest success story of the “Shazam effect” is Lorde, who was Shazamed 5.6 million times in 2013. Before she was the superstar she is today, the young songstress was left to develop her talent in the hands of Good Night Nurse’s Joel Little. Time and money are the opposite of what record companies want to put into an artist, but her absolute uniqueness grabbed the interest of millions of people and through Shazam she was made into a phenomenon.
Aside from simply breaking new artists, many established acts owe their fortunes to the help of Shazam. Pharrell William’s track “Just a Cloud Away” shot to the top of the charts after being Shazamed on Fiat’s advert. Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” was greatly helped to stay in the charts after M&S’s campaign, not to mention Jay Z, Kanye and a seemingly endless list.
The biggest effect of Shazam however is the shift in relationship between consumer and “tastemaker”. You need just glance at last years list of predictions from Shazam (http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/news/digital-and-mobile/5812351/top-10-artists-shazam-expects-to-break-in-2014-based-on) to realise just how much of a powerful tool it is, and exactly why it is now such a huge and influential company.
No longer are we destined to listen to whatever the “taste makers” decide to put out there, thanks to Shazam they now listen to us.
#john peel #NME #Conor McNicholas #The OC #Phantom Planet #ASDA #OhMyLove #California #iTunes #TheScore #Lorde #goodnightnurse #joellittle #jayz #kanyewest #cleanbandit #ratherbe