The Identification of Music Group vs Shazam

Shazam is an undoubtedly useful tool, a vital fixture for most smartphone users – a household verb, akin to “Google” this, or “Shazam”. But all too often does the app either fail to identify the track we seek, or we are too slow on the draw to clumsily open the app in time, and hold our phone at often awkward angles to capture the vital “fingerprint” or numerical signature with which Shazam’s 8 million + library of music is encoded.

The Identification of Music Group is an online Facebook community page, which helps its members identify music. Sounds familiar, no? The first rule of the IoMG Facebook page user guide reads,

1. Shazam it first

Immediately acknowledging the merit of Shazam, while simultaneously distancing itself in one simple instruction; implying if you can’t find it there, then WE may be able to help.

2. We encourage homemade recordings – humming / singing / playing / recreating the song – to identify the track. Sometimes, you can put the phone camera away!

With this instruction, one can’t help but imagine a group of friends tapping a biro on a desk, questionable beat boxing and the humming of melodies in a Never Mind the Buzzcocks-esque manner. Is there any better way to recall a song? Music is a social engagement, a notion evidently well understood by IoMG.

The objective of IoMG is clearly derived from Shazam’s successes, but more crucially – its flaws; since Shazam’s identification process is aligned with the studio recorded versions of these songs – any music in a live environment is highly unlikely to be successfully ID’d. Shazam has been operational since 1999, albeit only universally since around 2010. Yet, despite their deep pockets, its developers have not had the foresight to adapt its services to the needs shared by the likes of IoMG. Countless times when I’ve been abroad and something wonderful has come on the radio, and my purposefully slowed phone (thanks for finally admitting this, apple) has failed to successfully ID the track. If Shazam recorded and stored every one of your failed ID attempts, rather than it disappearing into the ether like some fickle snapchat – at least there would be that shred of evidence which could be referred to in future. Admittedly if you were to enquire about the track in question via IoMG, many would have difficulties recalling or explaining the track in words, hums, clicks or whistles – but with a lack of time restraints via a manual imitation, or better yet, any kind of phone recording submitted at your leisure, the door remains open for a successful ID rather than being slammed shut forever with “We didn’t quite catch that”.

Recently purchased by Apple, Shazam is intentionally geared towards the promotion of commercial artists, and beneficiaries of the industry, (iTunes especially). High traffic creates 1million+ advertisement engagements per day. As of 2014, Shazam was directly responsible for 400,000 (legal) digital downloads per day, and accounted for 5% of all the global music download market. While IMoG cannot compete with such numbers, its model is not designed for lucrative gains. IMoG is the celebration of a shared experience, a community connected via the mutual practice and participation of music.

With only 95k members, compared to Shazams 20 million per day user-ship, the benefits of IoMG may not appeal to the masses; those willing to hum into their phone the strained memory of an ambiguous melody may be in the minority – yet IoMG clearly represents a discernible demographic, and a community-driven service that has the ability to deliver that which Shazam perpetually neglects. This is no comparison of which is better. Shazam, will rightly always have its place in the world, and specifically the music industry – when it works, its value is undeniable, an unfathomable invention to the music fans of previous generations.

Perhaps Shazam should be thought of as a product, and IoMG as a service. The former is the equivalent of walking into a fully stocked HMV circa 1997, hearing a song you like through the store speakers, and an employee kindly pointing you towards a wall display of hundreds of Spice Girls CD’s. The latter is more like posting a descriptive ad in the village newspaper.

But with the tech backlash we’re facing, one can’t help but hope initiatives such as IoMG will only grown in popularity.