September 17, 2002 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Shazam! The Media have been talking about it for a while, but this Music Identification Service for British (nyt) mobile phones is finally here. For 50p, you can place your mobile phone next to any machine playing groovy unidentifiable music, and within a minute, it'll text and tell you what's playing. So far, I've worked out that it's great at identifying Sheryl Crow and Bush tracks, but it's not so good at identifying traditional Greek folk music.
posted by seanyboy (11 comments total)
You know, the noble hunter/gatherer tribal people of Africa and South America have perfected the art of identifying bush tracks for centuries.

posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:36 AM on September 17, 2002

seanboy: Orhan Terzi aka DJ Quicksilver is not a Greek folk musician but a German-Turkish (dance) DJ...
They will need an exponentially expanding library over the next few years to be able to identify non-british/american pop songs (or indeed any non hit songs) BTW, not sure if this is achievable... Now if you had a Napster-like user base on the other hand...
posted by talos at 8:48 AM on September 17, 2002

That's what I thought too. But I asked it to identify some Actual Greek Folk Music, and it told me that what was playing was DJ QuickSilver. That was my little Joke. Weird that DJ Quicksilver is Greek though. I should look up the track that it identified. (Techno Macht Spass)
posted by seanyboy at 8:53 AM on September 17, 2002

I interviewed these people in May for an article about upcoming mobile phone services. I thought this sounded a bit silly. Are enough people going to know about it/care about it for it to actually make much money?
posted by Summer at 9:02 AM on September 17, 2002

Occasionally Shazam will do a false positive - ie mistake one song for another. But it's more common for it to simply not recognise a song at all. Shazam claims to cover 'all music available' but in truth it covers just mainstream music heard on chart radio. That will change, as labels and artists wise up to Shazam and send in their material.

As the beautiful fellow Londoner Summer rightly says, Shazam have a problem in terms of making money.

Their operation is not cheap, and while 50p per tag is a lot of money to customers, the mobile phone companies take 50% of the share as well as the delivery cost of the SMS.... and Shazam must bear the cost of any refunds they offer (if a track is unsuccessfully tagged). So we're talking about 20p or so left for Shazam to cover their costs with - that means a lot of people will need to use the service to make it break through, and even more will need to use the additional add-ons such as sending song mails to friends or buying CDs.

If Shazam can manage to reduce their price to 30p or 20p per tag and simultaneously improve their service to recognise any song at all - whether it's on Steve Lamacq or Kiss or in a bar or nightclub - I believe it will become a massive phenomenon. In the meantime it's just an incredibly impressive technology looking for a market.
posted by skylar at 10:00 AM on September 17, 2002

I'd be willing to wager, Shazam would be totally confused with my music collection. Gotta love that Über-doom.

Sunn O))) and Khanate would make the cell-phone cry before it ever identified what was playing.
posted by Dark Messiah at 10:06 AM on September 17, 2002

Very cool concept, though... how many times have we heard something on the radio and wished we could get the track data... of course, this could be taken care of with digital radio.

posted by silusGROK at 11:08 AM on September 17, 2002

There's a service used in the U.S. music industry that does this for the recording industry, listening to hundreds of radio stations for the purpose of tracking song play rates and -- I'm guessing -- royalty payments.
posted by rcade at 11:16 AM on September 17, 2002

RCade, you may be thinking of companies like Audible Magic, Idioma or Relatable.

Actually there are already several active services which can tell you the title and artist of songs heard on the radio. These include Sony's eMarker, Star CD, Xenote's iTag and Mobiquid in France. But what's cool about Shazam is that it is meant to work on any music anywhere.
posted by skylar at 11:23 AM on September 17, 2002

to rcade: I heard that it recognizes some sort of encoding in the track to recognize it. I remember (I think) a station manager mentioning that this is why they don't play those cool 'in studio' recordings of artists very often because those machines can't pick up on it, and therefore no one gets paid. I don't know if that's true or not, or if I completely misunderstood, but I'm curious to what the deal is if I'm wrong.
posted by imaswinger at 11:44 AM on September 17, 2002

All of which reminds me of erstwhile startup xenote from back in the wonder years. They needed an inaudible tracking signal mixed in with the song, though. Check out their current web site for a ghost town experience.
posted by thijsk at 1:37 PM on September 17, 2002

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