Techin5 Developer Interview – Shazam

Techin5 Developer Interview – Shazam

Another Saturday and we’re back with our third Techin5 Developer Interview. That’s right, the Developer Interview Series continues on Techin5, and we’ve actually been quite surprised at how much interest we’ve got for our Developer Interview Series in such a small time frame. We’re actually going to pause this series for a bit after today’s Article, so we can give our developer friends time to get their answers ready for when we barrage them with questions again!

Today, Jason Titus who is the CTO of Shazam takes the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. For those of you unaware, Shazam is a Mobile Application best known for it’s music identification system which allows you to listen to a song and instantly tell you which song it is. A great app for those who are always trying to figure out ‘what that song was called’. Formed in 1999, the company has grown immensely over the last decade, and is now considered to be one of the most popular apps in the world, exzisting on 8 different mobile platforms. What does Jason Titus have to say about Shazam? Read on to find out!

Techin5 Developer Interview – Shazam

Please tell us, what is your role at Shazam?

I am Shazam’s Chief Technology Officer, which mainly means I try to keep our developers and service engineers focused on the strategic direction of the company as they continually add features and improve the system.

Why do you think Shazam has become the go-to-app for finding music on our mobile devices?

The main reason is that we have kept focused on giving users what they want – a quick, easy way to get more information about what they’re listening to and watching.  Also, over the last year we have been adding a wider range of capabilities – sharing the music you discover with your friends, seeing real time synced lyrics, notifications of new music from bands you have tagged, etc. as well as enabling Shazam for a growing set of TV shows and advertisements.  We are committed to making Shazam the fastest, most effective mobile discovery tool there is.

How did the name Shazam come to be?

The original founders looked for a word that was evocative of the magical experience and the amazement people get with the app, and Shazam epitomizes both of those things.

Roughly how many people currently use Shazam around the world?

We currently have more than 150 million users in 200 countries.

That’s quite a big number! In a nutshell, please tell us how the Shazam process actually works.

When a user pushes the Shazam button in the application, we gather a sample of the audio from the phone, generate a digital fingerprint of that audio, and send it to our servers to match it against the millions of tracks in our database.  The algorithm used to match the audio searches for tracks that share a number of points across frequency, intensity, and time, summarized nicely here.  It can then apply scoring functions to the results and return the most accurate track to the user along with associated content such as song/album/band name, lyrics, and YouTube videos as well as links to buy on iTunes, Amazon or Zune.

How big is the Shazam song base?

Our song base currently has over 10 million songs, and continues to grow!

On a rare occasion, Shazam does not recognize a song. Is there a system in place for Shazam to add songs to the song base (database) soon thereafter?

Our music team is constantly working to get more music that our users care about into our system before you hear it on the radio or in a club.  Record labels love working with us as we drive over $100 million in music sales a year through our App, but we also have a huge stream of music coming our way directly from artists and other sources, as well.  For an interesting view into our music sourcing, check out this New York Times article from earlier this year.

As for dealing with any gaps – we are constantly tracking our coverage and move quickly to get anything we missed into the system.

Windows Phone 7.5 recently just came out with Bing Audio/Music. Do you see that as a competitor, and if so how does Shazam aim to compete with an free inbuilt service like that?

We view folks like Microsoft coming into our space as further validation that we are doing the right thing.  We expect we will compete with them on everything from our user experience, feature set, performance, and depth of coverage.  The reality is that music and mobile discovery is at the heart of our DNA and is our sole focus at Shazam.  We can go deep where our users want us to and iterate on our experience without being distracted by other products and branches of business.

What can we expect from Shazam in the future for all platforms? Are there any big features on the horizon that you can tell us about?

First and foremost you can expect to see us continue to improve our performance and experience.  We want to take away any friction that keeps a user from grabbing their phone and finding out more.  As to big new features?  Yes there are, but no, I can’t. 😉

Thank you for your time Jason, do you have any final words about Shazam?

Just a quick thanks to all of our users.  Everywhere I have gone I have been amazed how positive and supportive our user base has been.  They give us their ideas, their time, and our business and it is greatly appreciated!

Special Thanks to Rica for her assistance


Founder and Chief Editor of Techin5, currently based in Melbourne Australia. Has always had a deep appreciation of Technology and how it helps people, which led to the birth of Techin5. You can follow me on Twitter at @jubbing and on Instagram