Have you walked into some place like a bar and heard a song you liked but couldn’t identify, and wished you had some way to get more information before the next track came on? Have you been flustered anytime for not being able to exactly place a song that sounds vaguely familiar? If you’ve answered yes to at least one of these questions, you should check out Shazam, a music discovery engine, based out of the United Kingdom.
I had read about Shazam around the time of its launch a year or so ago. All you had to do was to dial 2580 on your mobile phone, hold the phone close to the source of music for around 10 seconds. After a few seconds, you got a text message with the song data.
I got a chance to use Shazam during my recent trip to London.
At a McDonald’s restaurant near the Bank Underground Station, I heard a song that I liked. Since I hadn’t heard this song before, I was curious to know more and decided to put Shazam to work. I dialed 2580. After 20 seconds or so, the call was automatically terminated and I got the following SMS from Shazam a few seconds later.
Wow, Shazam had identified the song!
I tried another song — this time a familiar Jethro Tull number (“A Gift of Roses”) from my MP3 player. Here’s what I got back from Shazam.
Wow, I could now vouch that Shazam had correctly identified the number!
I was curious to figure out how Shazam responds to live music. I got a chance to check this out the next day while I was at the Greenwich Market (just outside the Cutty Sark for Maritime Greenwich DLR station). I saw a young lady playing a western classical piece on the violin. When I “submitted” this music to Shazam by dialing 2580, I got back an SMS saying Shazam couldn’t tag the track suggesting that the music should be loud enough.
To me, this song was much louder than the one Shazam had successfully identified the previous day at McDonald’s. So, Shazam’s inability to identify the Greenwich Market piece is probably because (a) it can tag only recorded music (not live music), or (b) its collection excludes western classical music, or (c) its collection does not include this specific western classical piece. A quick glance at Shazam’s website did not yield a definitive answer.
Shazam costs 25p per track — whether Shazam manages to identify the track or not. Shazam also offers to sell the ringtone at a cost of 300p.
Overall, I found Shazam to be a nice service in a very niche space.