Shazam Can Now Predict The Future

>By harnessing its massive data set, which it gathers from more than 100 million users worldwide, Shazam can determine what song will hit No. 1 over a month in advance.

From The Fader:

If you didn’t believe in the power of big data before, you will now: according to a talk given yesterday by Cait O’Riordan, Shazam’s VP of product, her company can predict nearly every successful pop song ahead of time. The Shazam app, which allows you to identify songs with your phone, has 100 million users worldwide, and people use the app approximately 20 million times a day. This gives Shazam a huge data set, and with lots of data comes forecasting power. O’Riordan says that “with relative accuracy, we can predict 33 days out what song will go to number one on the Billboard charts.”

That’s not all: Shazam can watch as songs begin to blow up in different regions and snowball into global successes. O’Riordan traces the rise of Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be"—the most Shazamed song of 2014—and suggests that its 2015 equivalent might be the remix of Omi’s "Cheerleader.” Possibly coolest of all, Shazam can tell exactly what moment in a song causes people to reach for their phones and get the app going. For O.T. Genasis’ “Coco,” the famous exclamation, “baking soda, I got baking soda!” sent people scrambling for their devices. And when people were listening to Kanye’s “Monster” back in 2010,Nicki’s verse was the one that got most of the Shazam’s. Disputes about who had the best rap verse will never be the same again.

We have written a lot about data in the past, but this is one of the first times a music discovery company has revealed how its data can be used to predict the future of our industry. What I found the most fascinating about the video above, which I highly suggest you watch in full, is that it seems most songs only have about ten or fifteen seconds to grab someone’s attention before the likelihood of being Shazam’d begins to fall at an alarming rate. I would hope people give new music more than the length of an Instagram video to prove their staying power, but at the same time I know when using Spotify on shuffle I often skip from track to track within three or four seconds.

What I want to know is whether or not Shazam has any plans to make this data available to labels, or even the public, at some point in the future. There is a lot of power to be wielded by understanding the flow of public interest as it relates to popular music, and I am sure there are already people doing everything they can to gain access to that information. Knowing who is going to be big next would allow labels, as well as the artists themselves, to know how and where to allocate their marketing funds. If I know for certain Artist A is a month away from the Billboard chart, then my focus for the next four weeks will be doing everything I can to facilitate that artists ability to reach number one. If I don’t have that information, I might not think to focus any special time or attention on that talent until they’re already charting, and by that point you’re already behind the curve.

Do you think this data has real applications in the real world, and if so, do you feel it should be made available to the public?

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the Director of Customer Engagement at Haulix and host of the company's podcast, Inside Music. He is also a public speaker known for promoting careers in the entertainment industry, as well as an entertainment journalist with over a decade of experience. His bylines include Rolling Stone, Alternative Press, Substream Magazine, Nu Sound, and Under The Gun Review, among other popular outlets.