Shazam Turns the Corner

I’ve always been a big fan of Shazam – it seemed to epitomise Arthur C Clarke’s “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. I can remember demoing it back in 2001 to a bunch of Coca-Cola people and hearing the collective intake of breath as Shazam correctly identified a random track.

However, as I posted as far back as the Summer of 2005, all was not sweetness and light in the Shazam garden. The basic issue was that not enough people were using it to drive serious revenues and I posited that this was because of the user experience:

……. the average number of tracks people have downloaded is only 2.4 each, which implies that frequency of use is pretty low. Bearing in mind there will be a heavy user element to this, many people seem to have used it once and never again.

This could be because they’ve forgotten how to use it, which is always a problem with this kind of service, memorable short code or not. If I were them, I’d be looking at a J2ME solution……..in any event, usage must be made as simple and easy as possible.

My basic reasoning was that giving Shazam real estate on the phone would be a permanent reminder to use it and would mean not having to remember the short codes and how it all worked.

Who knows if the Java solution would have worked for them, but I was definitely on the right track as after they launched Shazam in the Apple Apps Store, growth has simply exploded. As mocoNews explains in their interview with Andrew Fisher, their personable CEO, “Since last September [2008], we’ve had 15 million new users – prior to that, we had built 20 million users over the last eight years.”

Such is the transforming nature of the Apps Store approach. I wonder if there aren’t other services out there which essentially failed in the old world, but would flourish in the new?

While we’re on this though, it’s worth remembering that one of the core beliefs by many experts before the Apps Store was that “people don’t download apps to their phone”. Really, I’ve heard this many times from everyone from pundits to VCs. At MobHappy, we’ve always know that this isn’t true, of course, as we’ve had Buckley’s Law #31 to fall back on:

Citizens will download applications, providing it’s very clear what the application does and what the benefits of using it are.

Shazam being a great, but by no means unique, example.

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