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At the beginning of September 2013, Shazam announced a huge milestone: the 10 billionth use of the music identifying app.

The song: Lady Gaga’s ‘Applause’. The man: some guy in New Jersey who was officially the last human being in the Western world not to recognise Lady Gaga.

If you’re unaware of Shazam, quite simply it’s an app that you can use to identify a song you don’t know the name of that’s playing in any location (as long as it’s audible) in a matter of seconds. The process is called ‘tagging’.

Shazam currently processes more than 100m tags a week, this is 150% more than a year ago, and currently has more than 80m global users.

Here’s a handy infographic made by Shazam to chart its 10 year rise:

Shazam also claims to generate $300m in digital music sales every year, this is 10% of the digital music market. To put that figure in context, iTunes currently holds on to a 63% share, Amazon 22%.

This revenue is generated from users being able to click through the relevant tag to purchase and download the track identified by the app. It’s a testament to instant gratification.

Not bad for what was essentially a gimmick that briefly kept me and my friends amused a decade ago, when it operated as a phone number you rang while in a club just for the fun of it, to now being a serious major player in the digital music market.

The UK

In the UK, Shazam has been highlighted as a contributing factor to the success of Lily Allen’s cover of Keane’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’.

Of course the major reason why it’s a success is because it forms the soundtrack to this year’s John Lewis Christmas advert, but when the advert was shown during a break in The X Factor a week last Saturday, 31,000 Shazam users didn’t know the song and used the Shazam app to tag it.

Lily Allen’s ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ appeared at number seven on the following Monday’s Live iTunes’ Top 10. 

The marketing machine has been in full effect around this cross-promotional strategy. John Lewis has broken its own records for social buzz, Keane has released a greatest hits album, which after two commercial failures wouldn’t have sold nearly as much if not for the advert, and of course Lily Allen timed her own comeback announcement to follow a week after the advert’s appearance.


Shazam has introduced ad tagging to expand its empire. Going by the name Shazam Engagement Rate (SER), it’s intended to be a metric that tells brands how many times their ads were tagged and how large the audience was at the time.

There are currently 250 ads tagged on Shazam, and the results are only available to the advertisers who partner with Shazam.

Although Shazam has a clear aim to expand into analytics and help brands with marketing strategy, it is increasingly an integral part of how we interact with music; forming a useful second screen while watching television at home and helping to drive online music sales. 

For more on a similar topic, please read how brands are spending money on digital in the music industry and American Express: using storytelling to transform online music.

Christopher Ratcliff

Published 19 November, 2013 by Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff is the editor of Methods Unsound. He was the Deputy Editor of Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

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Comments (3)



Hey - good article Christopher.

I don't think Shazam was ever just a gimmick - it's been useful from day one, unlike many apps.

Given it's essentially an affiliate, it's also made money from day one.

Again... not so many apps can say that.

almost 3 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Group Analytics & Digital Insight at Thomas Cook Group AirlinesEnterprise

Really interesting article. I find it genuinely quite worrying that 30,000 people needed to Shazam 'Somewhere only we know' though!

I guess the interesting question becomes what they could do to make it even more lucrative by helping people to identify new music based on songs they had Shazamed. I know there is already some effort to do this in a weekly email to subscribers but feel there is more they could do to increase the frequency of interaction for some people based on the data they have available...

almost 3 years ago

Christopher Ratcliff

Christopher Ratcliff, Editor at Methods Unsound / Search Engine Watch

I, on the other hand, found that fact rather reassuring... Great point though @Matt.

Similarly Spotify could really stand to improve its 'recommends' landing page. It has SO much information about my listening habits, and yet has failed to pique my interest once after using it daily for many years.

almost 3 years ago

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