Now That Shazam Has Your Ear, It Wants Your Eyes, Too

The app is expanding beyond music to make TV watching a more interactive experience.

Now That Shazam Has Your Ear, It Wants Your Eyes, Too
[Image: Flickr user Henry Spencer]

A select few brands get to become verbs: You can Swiffer a floor, Skype a friend, Google a term, and when you hear a song you don’t know the name of, you Shazam it.


Every month, 88 million unique users and 420 million users around the world Shazam songs. “My mother could use it as a way of discovering music,” says newly installed Chief Product Officer Daniel Danker. “In that way, it’s a utility and it’s become a household brand.”

People use Shazam for a very specific purpose. “As a result, people spend fairly little time with it every month,” says Danker. “In some ways, you could say that’s because it so brilliantly executes on that utility.”

The challenge for Shazam: When you’ve become the verb in your field, how do you expand your definition?

One way is to build on the user experience. You could help people buy the music they just Shazammed–as evidenced by the company’s being behind 7% of global music sales. You could offer lyrics or the ability to preview or share a track.


Same Shazam, new context

Shazam is at work in shifting perception of its brand. The company has a new CEO Rich Riley, who is embarking on a CMO search. He brought on Danker, who comes from BBC, where he spent three years overseeing the legendary British network’s online television and radio products.

“We’re starting to talk about what some people call ‘second screen television,'” says Danker. “We actually deliver good value on top of the TV experience in certain verticals, particularly in things like award shows, music, and live events.”

How does it work? This year, 700,000 people Shazammed the Super Bowl and more than a million Shazammed the Grammies. On the show X Factor, viewers can Shazam to vote for singing contestants.

Danker says Shazam is getting selective about what shows it partners with. As it branches out from music-centric shows, it’s looking for the best fit from a content perspective. For example, movies, dramas, or sitcoms are not the best fit because viewers will be far less likely to want to break the narrative of what’s happening on-screen. But a talk show, Danker says, makes for many more Shazammable moments.

“Think about The Today Show. The person on camera is talking to you, the audience back home,” says Danker. “It’s a very logical moment to say, ‘Well, I want to talk back. I want to engage,’ because you want to participate in a two-way experience.”

Moving in on advertising

Shazam has increasing partners in advertising: Old Navy did the first Shazam-integrated campaign in 2011, and brands like Jaguar and Progressive Insurance have joined as well, with 450 campaigns under their belt in more than 25 countries.


People watching a Jaguar ad on television can Shazam it to see inside the car. Progressive allows commercial viewers to Shazam for an insurance quote. “They are all contributing to that shifting perception of what the Shazam brand is,” Danker says. “The Shazam brand means something different than it used to.”

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.