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A startup that aims to feed souls- the story of Shazam

Updated: Sep 21, 2022

How many times have you heard a song and fell in love with it at once? I’m sure all of us have tried to remember the lyrics in order to search for the song later. So, four young and creative friends came up with a solution which turned into a successful startup.

Chris Barton, one of the founders says: “I’ve always wanted to engage computer sciences with business and have my own company. While I was in summer internship, me, Philip and Dhiraj were coming up together and had brainstorming sessions. Summer 1999 was the height of the dot-com bubble which seemed as a perfect opportunity for startup companies to thrive.”

Chris thought that it would be a good idea if people could identify the song they heard in various places and started to research that idea. However, he found out that he wasn't the first one who came up with that idea: there were several companies that tried to solve the issue before. Yet, they were sharing the same limitations, because they only monitored the music that radio stations played. If one heard a song in a store or a club, he wouldn’t be able to identify it. Basically, Barton thought of a software on a phone which would enable users to put it near the music player and identify the song that was playing. However Barton also knew that it was nearly impossible to make it work on the phones used in the early 2000s, because of low-quality sound recognition, but still they did not give up on the idea.

Initially in 2002 the company known as “2580” was launched in London as a service provider. Customers dialed that number and within 30 seconds the operator identified the music and sent it via SMS. Later, these messages included hyperlinks in order to let the users download the songs online. Later in 2004 Shazam launched in San Francisco planning to charge users for 0.99 USD for each identified song. In 2006 users were charged 0.6 pounds per call, and also monthly unlimited subscription was available for 4.50 pounds.

The first time Shazam became available as an app was in 2006 on Amp’d Mobile cellular service. Two years later Shazam for iPhone debuted with the launch of the App Store. The free app enabled users to launch iTunes and buy songs directly, despite the fact that the service was struggling to find classical music. A year later Shazam became available for Android and Windows phones as well.

2009 was the breakthrough year for Shazam- it was downloaded 10 million times in 150 countries all over the world. 2 years later Apple announced Shazam as the fourth most-downloaded app and as a result it broke the records previously held by SoundHound. In 2013 Shazam was listed among the best apps on Android and in later years Shazam started partnerships with several online music streaming platforms including Beatport and Saavn. It was also added to Apple’s virtual assistant “Siri”. In 2016 the company started a partnership with Snapchat where it enabled the users to identify the music while having the camera screen open. In 2018 Shazam was acquired by Apple Inc.

“In an ideal world, Shazam would have started 5 years later and therefore missed many of the tough times waiting for the mobile phones to catch up with our vision.”- says Barton. But a success story can’t be imagined without challenges, right? “If you are going to do a startup, you must make sure you are truly passionate about the business because you are going to need that raw passion to power you through the really tough challenges. There were other businesses I considered other than Shazam that would not have brought that same passion for me. Selecting the right co-founders who share passion, drive, results, and integrity is critical, and your efforts could be in vain if you don’t pick the right people. We were very fortunate to have an incredible founding team chemistry.”

Another co- founder Mukherjee claims that if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, there are three rules that you have to follow: Never go against your values, never take “no” as the final answer, and never decrease your standards. And also, he adds that a team is stronger when people think in different ways and combine their skills, strength, and perspectives.

In conclusion, an entrepreneur should always prioritize user experience. “Getting users through innovative ways which are free can lead to a successful business.” - Chris Barton


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