How Indie Artists Can Make Money with Shazam

by | Jul 10, 2013 | Music Licensing

This App is Saving the Music Industry

shazam-iphone-android-app1While the music business glitterati is glorifying the rise of streaming, and crowning some new digital app or platform the next “savior of the industry,” let’s get real. For all the talk of Spotify and Pandora’s “explosive growth,” the sum of the streamers combined account for less than 10% of the industry, according to a recent IFPI report from February 2013. These debates around royalty rates are just a major label pony show; 10ths or 100ths of a penny mean literally nothing to an independent artist. And while streaming gurus herald – and seemingly cheer for – the death of sales, the report further showed that iTunes downloads account for 70% of all digital music revenue, and 57% of the total industry is still in physical! Yes, people still want to buy music, if we make it easy for them.

Let me tell you about an app that’s in 200 countries, has four times the amount of users that Spotify does, and 100 million more subscribers than even the mighty Pandora.  Do you know it? It has five billion songs, interaction with over 10 million more daily, and is actually driving music sales (1 in every 14 downloads, over $300 million in sales). It’s resulted in direct signings, licenses, and ticket sales.

Here’s the kicker: it’s been around for over a decade!

Have you guessed it yet?

It’s Shazam. 

Go get the free app now, especially the iPad version if you can (auto-tagging, heatmap charts, amazing visuals). If you’ve never used it, or it’s been a while, you’ll be pleasantly surprised – but more importantly, you need to start pimping it to your fans.

Quick refresher: Shazam is a media discovery app that “listens” to any song and then “tags” it, displaying the track name and artist/album. It also provides options to download directly from iTunes, and displays data outlining where the band is touring, and even a way to add a song to a playlist and stream it on Rdio.

I spoke with Will Mills, V.P. of Music and Content at Shazam, to get a better idea of how it helps independent artists. I’m seriously impressed. I would work for this company if the chance arose; what they are doing is nothing short of amazing for the music industry.

Performer: Shazam has shifted to all media engagement (movies, TV shows, advertisers) from just music discovery. How will that impact the music side?

Will Mills: First, music is the central part of Shazam and always will be. It’s the core of our DNA. Adding other media only helps to promote the music used in it.

54% of our users Shazam TV every week. Say your band has a song in a TV show, advert, or a movie – we will have literally millions of people ‘Shazaming’ those shows, and naturally, the music used in the show will be tagged. So, it’s not separate, it’s a natural extension.

Performer: I loved the Lil Wayne Shazam video project; can you give us an example of how Shazam has directly helped independents?

Will Mills: That’s the beauty of what we do, we scale from indies to majors. Templecloud, a UK independent band, is a great example. They hit #4 on Shazam charts from being tagged, and that song was picked up for a paid sync placement. The song wasn’t out in digital stores, or it could’ve sold a lot. That’s why it’s important to have your music with an aggregator so that all of the data is right, and your music is easily available for sale on iTunes. We know that advertisers, music supervisors, and labels are watching our charts, and it costs nothing to tag a song for fans.

Performer:  How do we get every artist involved?

Will Mills:  The best way for U.S. readers to get all of your music (meta-data, tagging, retina artwork) in the Shazam system is through the CD Baby’s traditional level of digital distribution. [editor’s note – TuneCore may be an option soon, but not as of press time] Getting new fans is a good beginning, but we want music creators to also make money. Discovery is great, but musicians still need to get paid.

Alternatively, for our readers, say you have a hot single or placement you need promoted right now, email [email protected] to get them music directly.

Discovery is worthless without conversion. So, before your song gets placed in a commercial, film, or in a TV show, get your music on Shazam, and get your fans to get the app.  Have a Shazam single launch party and drive your fans to tag a specific song for one week. At a live show, ask the audience to Shazam the next song to listen to it later. Use the logo on your videos, your YouTube channel, etc. Get creative. Can’t wait to tag you!


-Michael St. James is the founder and creative director of St. James Media, specializing in music licensing, publishing, production and artist development.