Shazam (service)

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Shazam Entertainment Ltd.
FoundedUnited States (1999 (1999))
  • Chris Barton
  • Philip Inghelbrecht
  • Dhiraj Mukherjee
  • Avery Wang
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom
Number of locations7 offices (2014)
Area servedWorldwide
Key people
  • Rich Riley (CEO)
  • Andrew Fisher (Executive chairman)
ParentAmerica Movil (10.1%)
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Shazam Entertainment Ltd.
FoundedUnited States (1999 (1999))
  • Chris Barton
  • Philip Inghelbrecht
  • Dhiraj Mukherjee
  • Avery Wang
HeadquartersLondon, United Kingdom
Number of locations7 offices (2014)
Area servedWorldwide
Key people
  • Rich Riley (CEO)
  • Andrew Fisher (Executive chairman)
ParentAmerica Movil (10.1%)

Shazam is a British commercial smartphone-based music identification service, with its headquarters in London, England. The company was founded in 1999 by Chris Barton, Philip Inghelbrecht, Avery Wang and Dhiraj Mukherjee.[1]

Shazam uses a smartphone's built-in microphone to gather a brief sample of music being played. It creates an acoustic fingerprint based on the sample, and compares it against a central database for a match. If it finds a match, it sends information such as the artist, song title, and album back to the user. Some implementations of Shazam incorporate relevant links to services such as iTunes, YouTube, Spotify or Zune.

In February 2014 IT experts discovered that the Android version of Shazam surreptitiously sends private data to at least two advertising portals.[2]


Shazam offers three types of applications; a free-to-try program simply called Shazam, their pay-to-play program called Shazam Encore, and their most recent addition called (Shazam)RED, launched in 2009.

The service was expanded in September 2012 to enable users in the US to identify featured music, access cast information and get links to show information online, as well as adding social networking capabilities.[3]

Shazam Encore and (Shazam)RED[edit]

In late 2009 Shazam launched Shazam Encore and introduced a 5-song limit on the number of tags per month on the free version. However, the limit was removed in late 2011 following a trial on Android devices.[4] Shazam Encore was always unlimited and free of banner ads, until September 2012 when they started adding banner ads listing the words "Presented by" when tagging TV shows. Encore features easy access to play tags in Spotify and Pandora.[citation needed]

(Shazam)RED is identical to Shazam Encore in features and price (both are priced at 5.99 USD) but a portion of the application payment for (Shazam)RED purchases is donated to support HIV/AIDS prevention, as part of the Product Red campaign[5] (together with other brands such as Nike, Apple, American Express, Converse, and Girl). The campaign's mission is to prevent the transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child by 2015 (the campaign's byline is "Fighting for an AIDS Free Generation").[6]


Shazam is also a free or low-cost application for some Android devices, Apple iPhone, BlackBerry devices, Nokia smartphones, Windows Phone devices, and most Sony Ericsson phones (not to be confused with Sony Ericsson's own TrackID, which is a similar application).[7] The application is similar on most phones and, unlike before, it does not text the response; instead the result is shown on the screen complete with details on Artist, Album, Title, Genre, Music label, lyrics, a thumbnail image of the song/album artwork, links to download the song on iTunes or the Amazon MP3 store and, where relevant, show the song's video on YouTube and give the option of playing the song on Spotify.


Unlike some other services that allow you to identify a song by humming,[8] Shazam works by analysing the captured sound and seeking a match based on an acoustic fingerprint in a database of more than 11 million songs.[9]

A spectrogram of the sound of a violin.
The target zone of a song scanned by Shazam.[clarification needed]

Shazam identifies songs based on an audio fingerprint based on a time-frequency graph called a spectrogram.

Shazam stores a catalogue of audio fingerprints in a database. The user tags a song for 10 seconds and the application creates an audio fingerprint.

Once it creates the fingerprint of the audio, Shazam starts the search for matches in the database. If there is a match, it returns the information to the user; otherwise it returns a "song not known" dialogue.[10]

Shazam can identify prerecorded music being broadcast from any source, such as a radio, television, cinema or club, provided that the background noise level is not high enough to prevent an acoustic fingerprint being taken, and that the song is present in the software's database.


The company was founded in 1999 by Barton and Inghelbrecht, who were students at University of California, Berkeley, and Mukherjee, who worked at a London-based internet consulting firm called Viant.[citation needed] In need of a digital signal processing specialist, the founding team then hired Wang, who was a PhD student from Stanford University. As of September 2012, Wang is the only member of the original team to remain in the company,[1] and serves as Shazam's Chief Scientist.[11]

Rich Riley, a former Yahoo! executive, was appointed to the role of CEO in April 2013 to prepare the company for a stock market flotation.[12] Riley replaced Andrew Fisher, who was hired from Infospace into the CEO role in 2005 to strengthen industry partnerships and grow the userbase.[1] Fisher now becomes executive chairman.[12]

The first partnership was with Entertainment UK, part of Woolworths, whom they approached to digitise their music catalogue of 1.5 million songs in return for permission to create a proprietary database. As the service grew to have a worldwide userbase, it needed to keep its database up-to-date, which it does by having relationships with labels globally.[1] By December 2008, the database had grown to 8 million songs.[13]

In February 2013, Shazam announced a partnership with the music store Beatport, adding its library of electronic music to the service.[14] On 3 April 2013, Shazam announced an exclusive partnership with Saavn, an Indian online music streaming service. The deal will add nearly 1 million songs in Indian languages to Shazam's database.[15][16][17][18]

Early days of the service[edit]

Initially, in 2002, the service was launched only in the UK and was known as "2580", as the number was the shortcode that customers dialled from their mobile phone to get music recognised.[1] The phone would automatically hang up after 30 seconds. A result was then sent to the user in the form of a text message containing the song title and artist name. At a later date, the service also began to add hyperlinks in the text message to allow the user to download the song online.[19]

Shazam launched in the US on the AT&T Wireless network in 2004 in a joint offering with Musicphone, a now defunct San Francisco-based company. The service was free at launch with AT&T saying that it would charge USD0.99 for each use in future.[20]

In 2006, users were charged £0.60 per call or had unlimited use for £4.50 a month, as well as an online service to keep track of all tags.[19]

Smartphone app[edit]

Shazam for iPhone 2.0 debuted on 10 July 2008, with the launch of Apple's App Store. The free app simplified the service by enabling the user to launch iTunes and buy the song directly if the user was on a Wi-Fi connection [21] (at the time, iTunes did not allow music downloads over 3G). It was also possible to launch the iPhone YouTube app, if a video was available.[22]

In 2008, the service struggled to identify classical music.[23]

Shazam launched on the Android platform in October 2008. The Android app connected to Amazon's MP3 store instead of iTunes.[24]

Alongside the iOS 3 update in July 2009, Shazam updated its app to include a number of new features: marking the tag with GPS coordinates; sending tags to others as 'postcards', enabling them to buy the song; and Twitter integration.[25]

The app launched on the Windows Mobile Marketplace in October 2009 as a freemium offering, with the first release of Shazam Encore. The free version was now limited to five tags per month: users typically tagged ten songs per month. Encore, priced at USD4.69, added several features such as song popularity charts and recommendations.[26] Encore first appeared for iPhone in November 2009.[27]

By December 2009, Shazam was downloaded 10 million times in 150 countries across 350 mobile operators. Around eight percent of users purchased a track after it was identified by the service.[1] Its success led to a funding round from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in October 2009.[1][28] In January 2011, Apple announced that Shazam was the fourth most downloaded free app of all time on the App Store, while rival SoundHound had the top paid iPad app.[29]

Early adopters of the free application are still allowed unlimited tagging.[30]

GetJar, an app store for Android, Blackberry and Symbian, added Shazam in November 2010.[31]

In January 2011, Shazam and Spotify announced a partnership for iOS and Android to help users identify music with Shazam and listen to tracks through Spotify.[32]

While Shazam already had Facebook and Twitter share buttons, deeper Facebook integration was released in March 2011. With Shazam Friends users can see what their Facebook friends have tagged, listen to the tracks and buy them.[33]

With Shazam 5.0, released in April 2012, the app begins 'listening' as soon as it is launched and can take as little as one second to identify media. In addition to music, the app can identify TV programmes and ads, if they are Shazam-enabled.[34]

In August 2012, Shazam announced the service had been used to tag five billion songs, TV shows and advertisements. In addition, Shazam claimed to have over 225 million users across 200 countries.[35] A month later, the service claimed to have more than 250 million users with 2 million active users per week.[3]

The Shazam app was listed among Techland's 50 Best Android Applications for 2013.[36]

In August 2014, Shazam announced there would be no more updates for Shazam(RED) after August 7.[37] Current users are advised to switch to the free version with tags transferred and ads removed (for free).

Similar apps[edit]

Patent infringement lawsuit[edit]

In May 2009, Tune Hunter accused Shazam of violating U.S. Patent 6,941,275, which covers music identification and purchase in a portable device.[39]


As of September 2012, Shazam has raised $32 million in funding.[40]

In July 2013, Carlos Slim invested $40 million in Shazam for an undisclosed share.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Woodward, David (December 2009). "Shazam names that tune". Director. Retrieved 26 September 2012. 
  2. ^ Shazam surreptitiously delivers user's position to advertising networks (in German). Retrieved 14 February 2014.
  3. ^ a b Kinder, Lucy (17 September 2012). "Shazam hits 250 million users and adds TV tagging capability". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  4. ^ Kumparak, Greg (29 September 2011). "Shazam Ditches The Monthly Tagging Limits For iOS And Android Devices". TechCrunch. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  5. ^ O'Hear, Steve (24 November 2009). "Mobile music discovery service Shazam joins the (PRODUCT) RED campaign". TechCrunch. Retrieved 17 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "(RED) Partners". (RED). The ONE Campaign. 2012. Retrieved 13 October 2012. 
  7. ^ Shazam Integrated with Symphonic Distribution! | Symphonic Distribution
  8. ^ Needleman, Rafe (13 December 2006). "If you can hum it, Nayio might find it". CNET. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  9. ^ Shazam – About Shazam
  10. ^ How does Shazam work to recognize a song ? | So, you code ?
  11. ^ "About Shazam – Team". Retrieved 27 September 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Williams, Christopher (29 April 2013). "British smartphone app Shazam appoints American CEO for IPO". Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 1 May 2013. 
  13. ^ Reisinger, Don (4 December 2008). "Shazam adds 2 million tracks to music library". CNET. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  14. ^ "Beatport's Matthew Adell on Shazam Deal, Why Music Biz Is a 'Disaster Model'". Retrieved 21 September 2013. 
  15. ^ Shazam Forms Exclusive New Partnership with Saavn for the Best Indian Music Discovery Experience
  16. ^ "Shazam Broadens Its Horizons – Speakeasy – WSJ". The Wall Street Journal. 
  17. ^ Shazam Partners With The ‘Spotify Of India’, Saavn, To Improve Its South Asian Music Recognition | TechCrunch
  18. ^ Updated: Shazam Ties Up With Saavn To Identify Hindi & Regional Music; Implications – MediaNama
  19. ^ a b Lim, Andrew (24 April 2006). "Shazam & AQA: The answer is on your mobile". CNET UK. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  20. ^ Charny, Ben (15 April 2004). "Dial-that-tune comes to U.S.". CNET. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  21. ^ Rosoff, Matt (10 July 2008). "Shazam on iPhone could change music discovery". CNET. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  22. ^ Dolcourt, Jessica (16 July 2008). "First Look video: Shazam for iPhone". CNET. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  23. ^ Ho, Kevin (17 July 2008). "iPhone apps: Testing Shazam's limits – classical music". CNET. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  24. ^ Reisinger, Don (21 October 2008). "Shazam moves to Android, works with Amazon MP3 Store". CNET. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  25. ^ Lee, Nicola (17 June 2009). "Latest Shazam lets you track musical journey in iPhone OS 3.0". CNET. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  26. ^ Dolcourt, Jessica (7 October 2009). "Shazam debuts in Windows Marketplace for Mobile". CNET. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  27. ^ Dolcourt, Jessica (9 November 2009). "Shazam iPhone app gets premium Encore". CNET. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  28. ^ Saint, Nick (15 October 2009). "Shazam Draws Investment, Is Already Profitable". Business Insider. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  29. ^ Reisinger, Don (19 January 2011). "Apple reveals top apps of all time". CNET. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  30. ^ Shazam: How to preserve the "unlimited tagging" feature after REFLASH and Root? – Android Forums
  31. ^ Reisinger, Don (10 November 2010). "AT&T ladles out GetJar apps – iPhone excluded". CNET. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  32. ^ Morris, Natali (13 January 2011). "Space love". CNET. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  33. ^ McCarthy, Caroline (22 March 2011). "Music app Shazam gets new Facebook features". CNET. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  34. ^ Parker, Jason (3 April 2012). "Shazam for iOS adds TV to its list of media it can identify". CNET. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  35. ^ Sawers, Paul (7 August 2012). "Shazam: Five billion songs, TV shows and ads tagged". The Next Web. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  36. ^ Jared Newman (1 July 2013). "50 Best Android Apps for 2013". Techland. Retrieved 30 June 2013. 
  37. ^ Important News About Shazam(RED) — Shazam Support
  38. ^ Cabebe, Jaymar (18 April 2012). "Path: The smaller, simpler alternative to Facebook". CNET. Retrieved 1 October 2012. 
  39. ^ Ogg, Erica (14 May 2009). "Apple, AT&T, Samsung, Verizon, and others sued over Shazam app". CNET. Retrieved 29 September 2012. 
  40. ^ Kincaid, Jason (22 June 2011). "Shazam Raises A Huge Round to the Tune of $32 Million". TechCrunch. Retrieved 20 September 2012. 
  41. ^ Carlos Slim invests $40m in music app Shazam –

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