Shazam Launches Its First Desktop App

14-year-old Shazam is preparing for an IPO–and coming to your desktop for the very first time.

It’s not uncommon for companies to arrive to the mobile market late. Sound identification service Shazam wasn’t late to mobile; it was late to the desktop.


The company’s audio tagging technology has operated solely from Shazam mobile apps since 2008 (before that, it was a dial-up service). Only now, with the launch of Shazam’s first app for Mac, will users be able to identify a song, ad, or television clip from their desktop computers.

Shazam for Mac is a tiny, quiet widget that sits on a computer’s menu bar. But when it detects a song or a television show, a small notification window appears to let the user know what she’s listening to. The app works for both audio within the microphone’s range and audio playing directly from the computer, regardless of headphone use.

Expanding the simple “shazam” tool to another device is just one way the app helps the company as it positions itself for an IPO.

Blending into the background–so that its more than 90 million active users don’t need to think to open the app–will also give Shazam’s users a push toward using its service more often. Auto Shazam, a feature in Shazam’s iOS app that allows users to listen for audio to identify full-time, accomplishes something similar, but the accompanying battery-draining issues aren’t as big of an issue on a desktop.

Shazam for Mac will also help Shazam move beyond its core utility as a sound-identifying tool. Each notification on the desktop links to Shazam’s recently updated website, which now includes song lyrics and, more profitably, to music stores from which Shazam collects affiliate referral fees. “ and Shazam for Mac, they’re best friends,” Shazam’s chief product officer, Daniel Danker, tells Fast Company.

An increased focus on desktop jives with some of Shazam’s other goals, too, like expanding from a simple on-purpose tool into a full-fledged media service. The company recently announced a partnership with Rdio that allows users of the service to play entire songs within the Shazam app. Directing people to Shazam’s website could help open the door for a service that stores music or playlists. “The idea is that it’s a place you go for great music,” Danker says, “not just a place you go to answer a quick question.”


About the author

Sarah Kessler is a senior writer at Fast Company, where she writes about the on-demand/gig/sharing "economies" and the future of work.