We, like many in the music industry, have wondered whether Shazam’s move into TV and advertising would take its focus away from music. The thrust of its product development over the last year has provided reassurance on that score: music remains core to Shazam’s community, even if it’s not so dominant in terms of its income.
Its latest new features are significant on multiple fronts for the music industry, though. First: Shazam is going to start making “Shazam Counts” public for songs – a big deal at a time when traditional media tastemakers (from radio stations to labels) see Shazam’s charts as one of the more trustworthy indicators of buzz around a new song or artist.
Making those counts public will set Shazam’s data out alongside YouTube, SoundCloud and Spotify – together, a powerful set of data for gauging artists’ digital momentum.
Meanwhile, there are also plans to get artists to share details of what they’re tagging with fans, who’ll be able to follow them to keep up – and also, of course, to stay in touch with what else they’re up to.
Pitbull, Calvin Harris, Maroon 5, Coldplay, One Direction, Shakira and Imagine Dragons are among the first 30, with the scheme – a bit like Shazam’s equivalent of verified users on Twitter or Facebook – due to roll out to hundreds more.
It’s another step along the road to turning Shazam into a network for artists to communicate directly with fans, at a time when organic reach on Facebook continues to fall. There is some stiff competition in the race to become the alternative, music-focused network of this kind though: it’s exactly what Apple Connect, which launches later today as part of Apple Music, is trying to do. Meanwhile Spotify has also got a nascent network of fans following artists, with labels and managers keen for it to develop more features to enable communication between them.
Shazam’s main challenge is that those rivals’s services and apps are where people go to listen to music, rather than simply to identify it. Shazam has been working hard to create more reasons for music fans to hang around in its app beyond the time it takes to tag a track, but it’s not yet as much as a destination as the actual streaming services.
There’s a lot of talk about the “engagement economy” in 2015, and while it’s smart for Shazam to launch features that help fans spend more time engaging with artists, if they’re to pay off, they’ll need to also help fans spend more time engaging with Shazam.