Listen Up, Shazam; Hundreds Of Rivals Are About To Bloom

Throughout its nine years, Shazam has defined and had the mobile music-identification space all to itself. But that is changing rapidly…

Not only are new apps like SoundHound and Yahoo’s Play parking squarely on Shazam’s lawn. Now a new service has launched to make technology just like Shazam’s available for free to thousands of developers.

The announcement of Echoprint – launched by The Echo Nest music metadata service along with the 7digital retailer and the Music Brainz music encyclopedia – delights in pointedly remarking: “Once a highly-proprietary technology, music identification now belongs to the community at large.”

Says Echo Nest’s CTO Brian Whitman: “Music fingerprinting should belong to the internet. It should be a service that every developer can rely on without worrying about licensing fees or complicated database implementations. Any music experience, from a streaming cloud service to a social music game can now immediately include music recognition. We’re giving people the client and server along with the data, and we can’t wait to see what they build with this.”

It’s a massive assault on Shazam. If Echoprint succeeds, Shazam won’t just have its two current competitors to worry about but, in theory, dozens or hundreds of rivals in mobile music identification, even apps for which that is not a primary function. In short, the space Shazam has effectively owned for nearly a decade could become commodified.

That may be one reason Shazam is trying to broaden out from mere music identification and is training the same technology to understanding other kinds of audio, like TV output, which, according to its pitch, can be used to link viewers to TV brands’ mobile websites. It is mostly for this push Shazam has taken on $32 million in new funding.

Right now, Shazam doesn’t look vulnerable. It boasts nearly 150 million users – most of which were added only in the short few years of the app boom, rather than in the full nine years it has been active – and is targeting 250 million within two years. It’s one of the most popular mobile businesses there is, and it’s converting many of its users to a premium, subscription version of its app with more features. Observers cannot rule out an intended IPO or exit along the way.

But Shazam will now have to think on its feet as it goes. The future just got a little bit harder.