The rate at which music is written and released has exploded in recent years (see Figure 13.3 below). Practically speaking, it is impossible to ingest and process the weight of around 100,000 albums published per year (one estimate claims 623 million songs have been published since January, 2001 — that’s one song every two minutes).1,2 Consequently, the majority of it gets lost, forgotten, or simply unheard. Regardless of what caused the surge or why the sheer amount of music is skyrocketing, the real effect of these astronomical numbers can be found when attempting to answer the question, “What kind of music do you like?”
Luckily, we were given a solution nearly two decades ago.
Between 1999 and 2002, the world received the first version of what would eventually become the world’s leading consumer-focused music identification program. The service was initially called “2580” in reference to the number customers dialed on their mobile phones. Upon calling, you would place the phone’s receiver near the speaker playing the song in question. 2580 would record and process a 30-second clip then text you back with the results. This service as we now know it, Shazam, is considered one of the top ten most popular apps in the world, recording over 30 billion “Shazams” since its launch.3,4
Even more than a solution to wrangling and identifying the immense amount of music at our disposable, Shazam is a rather useful tool for answering that dreaded question, “What kind of music do you listen to?” It’s hard to analyze and interpret a truly accurate and objective answer to this question. Sure, you may like “hip-hop” or “anything but country,” but what does that mean on the scale of individual songs, albums, and artists? Do you like all kinds of hip-hop or just Tupac and Immortal Technique? What would happen if you liked a song playing at the grocery store and it turned out to be “country”?
You may have a say in what you play through your AUX cord or which songs you include in your playlists, but at the heart of IDing a song you like but don’t know lies musical discovery at its most honest. It is a place devoid of preconceived interests and outside influence. Whether you’re at the supermarket, listening to the radio, or at a show, a song that catches your attention is a song worth knowing. That’s where Shazam comes in.
1. Open the app
2. Tap the blue and white S
3. Hold your phone to the nearest speaker
4. Patiently wait for your results
5. Continue about your day satisfied
Now, I’m willing to bet that you’ve Shazamed (or used Siri to ID) more songs than times you’ve opened the app to see what you previously Shazamed. I know that I, personally, don’t really think about the app unless there’s a song I’m trying to identify. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, from what I learned earlier today, waiting some time between checking on your ID playlist can help you find an objective answer to “What music do I like?”
Take a moment to open the Shazam app (or iTunes Store if you use Siri to ID).
It’s okay, I’ll wait… Let’s listen to a few jams from my own Shazam history while you check it out.
Alright! How many of the songs do you remember listening to and IDing? How many did you already know but simply forgot the name? Are there any surprises or patterns in your results?
As I found earlier today when hunting for more songs to add to our new NEST HQ Spotify playlists, the music I had IDed over the past few months awakened me to a new set of data to objectively assess my musical interests. These are a few things I learned and confirmed:
1. When it comes to dance music, I sit on both sides of the energy & intensity spectrum: hard-hitting, driving drum n bass and super-mellow ambient downtempo jams
2. KCRW’s Jason Bentley is a top-tier selector (I find myself Shazaming most of his show)
3. I apparently like at least one Noah Cyrus song
4. Neko Case???
5. I really like hip-hop’s new frontier (D.R.A.M., MadeinTYO, Migos, José James)
6. If it’s indie, I’m down with it (Two Door Cinema Club, Mr Sanka, Sylvan Esso, new Phoenix)
7. If it’s obscure, I’m very down with it (Chicano Batman, Layo & Bushwacka!, Romare, The Knife)
8. I’m basically a walking Coachella recap video (thanks Grace Mitchell and Andrew McMahon)
9. I will almost always Shazam a jazz or funk song (shoutout KJAZZ 88.1)
10. I’m really bad at remembering the names of songs and artists I’ve loved for years (CSN&Y, Lee Ritenour, Crystal Waters, Chaka Khan)
11. I need to listen to more World music
12. The Jazz Crusaders played an incredible rendition of “Eleanor Rigby” on their Lighthouse ’68 album
13. WHO IS BABY REY???
14. The world of covers is split between really bad and exceptionally good
15. I absolutely fucking love Lukas Graham, as do 9.9 million others
16. The Urban Outfitters on Hollywood Blvd. has fire playlists
I urge you to take a few minutes out of your day and deeply explore the songs you’ve Shazamed in the past. You wanted to know what they were for a reason, so let this be the reminder you need to check back in on them. It’s the first step in the fight against the mainstream media machine, and you’ve got one of the best weapons in the palm of your hand.