Shazam on iPhone could change music discovery

Shazam's iPhone application recognizes music playing around you and offers you a direct link to iTunes to buy the song (if it's available).

Shazam has been around for a few years now--CNET U.K. took note of the service back in 2006--but with today's launch of Apple's App Store, it could become a whole lot more popular. It has the potential to change how people discover and buy music.

Shazam lets you identify whatever song is playing nearby, tag it, and buy it directly from your iPhone. Shazam

The concept behind Shazam is simple: whenever you hear a song playing and can't identify it--on the car radio, at a friend's house, at a bar--you activate the Shazam application on your mobile phone. It "listens" to the song for about 30 seconds, then sends a text message to your phone identifying the artist and title. Shazam's database contains audio fingerprints for nearly 5 million songs, so there's a pretty good chance of a positive ID. However, closing the loop with an actual purchase was hard--you had to tag the song, then consult a Web site to see your tagged item, then go to another service (such as iTunes) to buy it.

The version of Shazam for the iPhone 2.0 fixes this problem: once you've tagged a song in Shazam, you can launch iTunes directly from that tagged song and buy the song immediately. That's assuming you have a Wi-Fi connection to the Internet--iTunes doesn't let you download music over a 3G data connection yet. (This is weak, but it's not Shazam's fault. Once Apple, AT&T, and the music companies work out all the business details to allow 3G downloads, Shazam could become even more useful. )

Downloading Shazam from the Apple App Store is free for the time being. No charges are mentioned in the terms as far as I can see, but the company reserves the right to begin charging for its service later (after notifying users). Using Shazam from other phones generally costs half a U.K. pound (about $1) per identification, or 2 pounds (about $4) per month for unlimited usage, so a similar fee structure could apply to the iPhone version as well.

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About the author

    Matt Rosoff is an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, where he covers Microsoft's consumer products and corporate news. He's written about the technology industry since 1995, and reviewed the first Rio MP3 player for CNET.com in 1998. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network. Disclosure. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattrosoff.

     

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