Understanding ‘Music Content Discovery’ and the future of Music consumption through Shazam..

As I have already said in several of my previous posts, one of the very basic aspects of building a business of any form over the Internet can be more successful through sharing of information, rather than hoarding it exclusively, because as we can see in this example, even the big Music Players like Itunes need the services of smaller music discovery Apps like SoundCloud SoundHound and Shazam to drive user traffic to their website.

Shazam is an app that allows users to record to any music playing in the surrounding and it maps the sound with its own database and provides the user with the details of the album/track and also links the user to places, where the music can be consumed/purchased legally. In a previous post which i had spoken about the HTC/SoundCloud SoundHound Integration ( see the Video), i had said that the audio data which was being received real time via the FM broadcast was pushed into a parallel pipe of the SoundCloud’s servers. I think that is not true, after i explored the Shazam app.

It is quite likely that like Shazam, Sound Cloud SoundHound too converts the real time music into a digital fingerprint and that fingerprint is sent to its servers, where it is mapped and the compared results of the album are provided. For this to happen successfully, it is only possible for an original reference copy of the album which should have been transformed into a reference Fingerprint, stored originally in Shazam’s servers. Only then can these apps match the finger prints and provide the user with the details of the album.

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So, what role is an app like Shazam playing in the current Indian legitimate music consumption Environment? As I have already said that currently, there are 2 types of legitimate music consumption. One is the Revenue Enhancer mode, where there are very few players left, and Itunes inevitably seems to be the king. ( Flyte is out.). The other one is the Piracy beater, Streaming model, where there is a whole lot of competition. There are several players in this segment – Saregama, Saavn, Dhingana(Rdio), Gaana, Wynk, Guvera etc. The latter environment is a largely competitive environment.

Last year, On April 3, 2013, Saavn and Shazam announced a partnership. The details can be seen here, and i quote from the website.

Music identification service Shazam today announced an exclusive new partnership with Saavn, the popular Indian music streaming service. The new partnership is supposed to give music fans a fun new way to discover the latest tracks from their favourite South Asian artistes in Bollywood and regional cinema

Shazam has already started mapping out Saavn’s library onto its music database. This could take a while since the announcement, given Saavn’s large library of not just Hindi but also regional music

The partnership between the two music-based apps will help Indian music fans figure out the name of songs and its artistes easily. Moreover, arrangement to purchase the music legally off iTunes is also being made by Saavn and Shazam. Listeners will also be able to share their finds with their friends on Facebook, Twitter or Google+ via Shazam. According to the announcement, more tracks from the inexhaustible collection of Indian music will be added every week to the partnered database.

The app partnership will widely cover popular genres such as bhangra, devotional, ghazals, Carnatic, Indipop and more. It will also encompass music in regional languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada and Bhojpuri.”

So, over a year later, I have tested the Shazam app and seem to be reasonably happy with the results, and i present them to you, in an entirely Tamil context. So, let us see the potential of this app. Again, I did the same test, by testing a few songs that were playing live from an Fm station and a song that i had purchased from the now defunct ‘Flyte’.

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Real time song discovery via FM or played in the background – As you can see that the App was able to bring out results, but its predictions don’t seem to work very well, always. Maybe, one reason is that, it has a larger database where it can push more Albums from music directors like Ilaiyaraja or Harris Jayaraj rather than a lyricist Vairamuthu. The only thing that was strange from that list was Ghajini, something, that i will come back to later. But, even in these 3 pictures, you can observe one thing. On discovering the album, the Shazam app is guiding users to Itunes and Saavn, which logically seems to be based on the agreement/partnership that was mentioned earlier, thereby providing Saavn an edge over its competitors, in this case.

Discovery of Rare songs – Most of us who grew up in the 80s and 90s must have heard hundreds of Ilaiyaraja’s tracks, without even knowing the name of the movie or having seen its visual. For e.g It is easy to associate ‘Maariyamma Maariyamma’ with Karakatakaaran, but how of us know which movie does the song ‘Raasathi Manasule” come from? It is Ramarajan’s movie, but how many of us know the name of the movie? What about ‘Amudhe Thamizhae?”, “Paaramal Paartha Nenjam?”, “Devadhai Ilam Dhevi Unnai Sutrum Aavi”.. Sure, we have heard these songs and know them, but do we know the names of the movies? So, this was a test, and here were the results.

#3-Ilaiyaraja_Vintage_Songs_Discovery

So, the app isn’t doing bad. However, when i fed the song ‘Katti Vechuko Endhan Anbu Manasa’, the App was not able to detect the song.

BGM – BGM is Ilaiyaraja and Ilaiyaraja is BGM. I fed the app a few BGM samples taken at Random. The app was not able to detect mid piece BGMs from Dharma Durai and Guru Sishyan, although some of them were very famous Motif’s, but it was able to detect the Title tracks of ‘Gopura Vaasalile’ && ‘Varusham 16’.

#4-BGM_Tracks

The Ghajini Mystery – This seemed like a bit of a mystery to me. Ghajini was taken as a Random sample, from the Fm Radio, and i found that the Shazam App was able to detect the album, initially. Much later, i observed strangely that there was No Itunes link in the Album, considering that almost all other detections had an Itunes link. This led me to check out Itunes directly to see if the Album was available. Surprisingly, I could find out only the Telugu Version of the same movie, again composed by Harris Jayaraj himself. The Tamil version of the same movie was not available in Itunes. Surprising.!

So, i played the Telugu version of the same Rangola Song from Youtube and started the Shazam App. Surprisingly, as the song unfolded, Shazam detected the Tamil version of the movie, initially. This, I could attribute to maybe, because both the Preludes and initial lyrics of both Tamil and Telugu versions were same. As the song continued to play in Youtube in its Telugu Lyrics, I ran the Shazam app again, and this time, it detectedly correctly, the Telugu Version of the Ghajini App, but even in that detection, it does not show the Itunes link for the telugu version of Ghajini, although the Telugu version of Ghajini is available in Itunes, which leaves me baffling?

The_Curious_Case_Of_Ghajini

To Summarize, an App like this provides two major benefits to the Copyright Ecosystem.

1. It helps fans detect and find music, legally.

2. Unlike other physical media like Text or Video, where Copyright information can be embedded via MetaData, In Audio, this can be lost easily. This phenomenon is called as ‘Attribution Erosion‘, and at times, can even lead to accidental plaigiarism. Apps like these can help fans or remixers trace original copyright holders for additional rights or permissions like Remixing their original works, for example.