Thoughts on Apple Acquiring Shazam

Chris Welch for The Verge:

In what’s sure to be welcome news for Shazam users, Apple has announced that it will be removing all ads from the app “soon.” And yes, that includes the Android version, which isn’t going anywhere.

It’s pretty rare these days to see Apple (let alone anyone in Silicon Valley) acquiring a company — whose progeny pre-dates the iPhone. Most of Apple’s acquisitions and hires lately have deep relationships with Siri. It should come as no surprise that Shazam also has serious value within Siri.

The next step in Apple’s journey with Siri is indexing metadata. You can’t have a successful product (like the HomePod or Siri) without a growing network of queryable resources. This is why Siri has sucked so bad. If Apple were more like Google, they would just take your searches, contacts, iMessages, voice queries, location data and mine it into something searchable, something queryable.

But Apple doesn’t roll that way. Shazam will help no doubt help grow the valuable index resources that Siri and the HomePod so sorely need.

Shazam All The Things

The appeal of Shazam is their voice/content recognition. Way back in 2014, Shazam began experimenting with Shazamable Ads. I think that is most telling about this purchase. While most advertisers and brands have been foaming at the mouth at the prospect for increased ROI on ad-spends, Apple saw this as an opportunity to grow their voice metadata treasure trove.

Imagine for a moment, sitting on your couch as a commercial comes on: an iPhone logo appears bottom-right. You raise your iPhone to listen to the ad. It unlocks with Face ID, half-way through the ad, your iPhone automagically opens a Safari tab and takes you to a product purchase page… for Tide laundry detergent.


Apple should be very careful with this kind of ability. This kind of voice/ad tech could ruin Siri or worse, seriously erode the last bit of trust consumers have with tech companies.

If we ignore the impending privacy apocalypse for a moment, we can appreciate why Shazam is so important for businesses. Shazam is a signal for up-and-coming trending songs that perhaps haven’t hit the charts yet. Or a rising underdog artist who isn’t mainstream enough to get a hashtag movement on Twitter.

Enter Shazam’s valuable database of musical queries. If you know the locational context, and number of times an artist has been Shazam’d — we can determine what piques peoples musical interests, where, when and possibly even why. Apple is now in possession of what is effectively, the pulse of music. But since Shazam works with all audio-types, not just music:

Shazam’ing audio, is like submitting a website to Google for indexing.  You can’t search for a website, if Google doesn’t know its their. It’s all about signaling. It’s entirely possible, that Shazam could become a background process on the iPhone one day, constantly indexing audio, questions, snippets of songs, constantly improving Siri’s capabilities.

Hopefully, one day I can ask, “Hey, Siri…” and it will actually give me useful results or even recommend Siri Shortcuts. Mind you, I have zero evidence to suggest that this is what Apple will use Shazam for, but I do know Siri is dead in the water if they can’t start indexing some audio/commands/actions.

The Shazam Business Circle

The other side of the Shazam acquisition is 100% for Apple Music. That much is obvious. An unforeseen benefit of this, is what I call the Shazam Business Circle — the benefit is rather abstract. It’s a sort of unique, self-fulfilling prophecy set in motion by a new song:

  1. A new song is released
  2. It starts being Shazam’d in public, becomes trendy
  3. Large stores that wish to differentiate themselves, want to play trendy songs most, but not popular songs
  4. Said stores pay Shazam (or if you’re Starbucks, you pay Spotify) to play songs are trendy/non-mainstream
  5. Customers Shazam those songs in the store
  6. Customers view the store as trendy
  7. Customers gain a new artist to listen to and follow

Now, we have four instances that have profited: Shazam, the store, the musician and the customers (for having found a trendy song in a “cool” store).

Back to Apple, they can use this resource with Apple Music. Subscribers could theoretically see what people are Shazam’ing in their city (or at their local Apple Store, H&M, Hot Topic or at a festival, whatever). All while simultaneously building/amassing a Siri Search index. Not bad at all, not bad.

I’m pretty intrigued, amused and excited to see how Shazam contributes in the Apple ecosystem.