It’s a typical scenario: You listen to a song at a restaurant or an event, and then that song stays with you, haunting you, forcing you to find its source and singer.
Earlier, the only option was to replicate that song, or a few verses and ask friends and family to hunt for the source.
But since 1999, this changed, because that year, a magical app was born, called Shazam.
What Exactly Is Shazam?
Shazam is an app that can recognize music, movies, advertising, and television shows, and showcase the source and other details about that content.
It seems magical, right?
In this blog, we will decode the internal working of Shazam, and find out how it works.
But first, let’s have an overview of Shazam, and find out some startling facts about this app.
Shazam: A brief history
Shazam was launched in 1999 by Chris Barton, Philip Inghelbrecht, Avery Wang, and Dhiraj Mukherjee, who teamed up to create a system that can recognize music and other related content and reveal everything about them.
In 2018, Apple acquired Shazam for $400 million, making it one of the biggest acquisitions of any mobile app at that time.
As of now, Shazam is not only available in Apple App Store, but also on Android, macOS, iOS, Wear OS, watchOS, and as a Google Chrome extension.
Stunning facts about Shazam
As of September 2022, Shazam has more than 225 million global monthly users, and it’s expanding at a rapid pace.
In order to recognize songs and TV/video content, Shazam has acquired 200 patents as of now, the app has more than 12 billion tags, which can categorize music and video content based on user inputs.
In 2015, it was found that 5% of all music downloads, across the world, originated from Shazam, making it one of the biggest databases for music content, anywhere in the world.
And one big statistic for businesses, looking for a solid platform to advertise their products: Advertisers on the Shazam app receive an average of 1 million clicks per day!
And one interesting trivia: The most searched (Shazamed) song ever is Dance Monkey, which has been searched a record 41 million times, and Drake is the most Shazamed artist ever with 350 million hits.
An incredible achievement for a tech-powered mobile app!
How Shazam works: Understanding music recognition algorithms & fingerprinting
The operational model of the Shazam app is simple: The app listens to max 20 seconds of a song or video content from TV, a movie, ads, etc, and it can be a chorus, verse, or a mere intro, and then instantly recognize that content, and show the results.
An important thing to note: No matter how long that song or content is, the Shazam app will only read the first 20 seconds.
Now, once that data is fed into the Shazam app, then it will:
- Create a fingerprint record that sample
- Create a fingerprint record that sample
- Deploy music recognition algorithms to tell you exactly which song or content it is.
Now, this process of recognizing music is not that simple!
There are tons of processes and algorithms that work in tandem to reveal the exact source of the music and content.
In 2013, one of the inventors of the Shazam app: Avery Li-Chung Wang, shared the magic behind Shazam app via research paper, and for the first time, revealed how this app works.
Understanding the elements of sound
First, let’s understand what is sound..
As per science, sound is a vibration, that propagates via mechanical waves comprising pressure and displacement, and the medium is air mostly, or water in some cases.
The three main components of sound are frequency, time, and amplitude.
Amplitude is the loudness of the sound, which is actually the size of the vibration.
Frequency, measured in Hertz (Hz) is the rate at which the vibration occurs. A human being can only listen to sound whose frequency lies between 20Hz to 20,000Hz.
And time is important because it shows at which time interval a sound has occurred, in relation to other sounds.
This is important to know because when a song is produced, it has sounds from different instruments, that vary in frequency and amplitude, as they move through time in relation to one another.
This is the reason that the same song having two different versions will still generate a unique fingerprint, due to the complexity of frequency, amplitude and time.
Creating unique audio fingerprint
Once the Shazam app records the first few seconds of a song or any audio content (max is 20 seconds of recording), it will create a unique audio fingerprint of that song.
And for that, the analog sound being recorded is converted into a spectrogram, wherein the X-axis represents time, Y-axis represents frequency, and the density of the shading represents amplitude.
For each section of an audio file, the algorithm chooses stronger peaks, and gradually, the spectrogram is reduced to a scatter plot. A point comes when the amplitude is no longer needed.
And this is the crux of Shazam’s operations.
Two unique fingerprints are created, and then they are matched to find the exact song which is being fed into the system.
There is an advanced process called combinatorial hashing, which is deployed to create exact and unique fingerprints of the audio files and to ensure that the matching is perfect.
This is how it works:
- Each anchor-point pair is first stored in a table, which contains the frequency of the anchor, the frequency of the point, and the time consumed between the anchor and the point called Hash. (Table #1)
- There is another table that contains the time between the anchor and the beginning of the audio file. (Table #2)
- Hash is then linked with Table #2
- The files in the database too, have unique IDs, which are used to extract more information about the song, such as the singer’s name, the song’s title, and more.
- The anchor-point pairs from the user’s recordings are first sent to Shazam’s database, for searching the exact match of anchor points in the database.
- This search will return the audio fingerprints of all those songs, that contain this Hash (formulated from combinatorial hashing)
- Once all the possible matches are located for the user’s recordings, the time offset between the beginning of the user’s recording and the beginning of the possible matches is found out.
- In case a significant amount of matching hashes have the same time offset, then bingo! It’s definitely the same song.
- The song is recorded by the user via the Shazam app
- This song is in Analog form, which is converted into Digital form
- This digital form is converted into the frequency domain, via Fourier Transform
- Unique audion fingerprint is created using Spectrogram
- This fingerprint is compared with all the possible matches in the Shazam database
- Via combinatorial hashing, the exact match is found
- The user gets the details of the audio content
How Shazam matches the songs & provides the results?
At this point, we have the unique fingerprints of both audio files. Now, the actual process of matching the songs starts.
This is how it works:
Now, if we plot this process of the matching process onto a scatter plot, wherein the Y-axis represents the time at which hash occurs in the user’s recording, and X-axis is the time at which the hash occurs in the database’ recording, then the matching hashes will form a diagonal line.
At the same time, if this plotting is done on a histogram, then there will be a spike at the correct offset time.
Here’s a summary of this entire process, in brief:
And it hardly takes seconds to complete this entire process of finding the exact match.
If you wish to know more about how Shazam’s highly advanced algorithm for recognizing songs and other audio content works, and if you wish to use the same logic and process to create your own mobile app for recognizing songs, then our System Architects and Mobile App Engineers at TechAhead can help you.
Schedule a no-obligation, free consulting session with our team right here!
How does Shazam music recognition work? ›
Shazam saves songs you've identified, which you can preview to discover new music. Shazam identifies a song by creating a unique digital fingerprint to match what you're hearing with one of the millions of songs in the Shazam database.How do I sync Shazam with music recognition? ›
- Make sure you've updated Shazam to the latest version.
- Make sure you have two-factor authentication set up for your Apple ID.
- Go to Settings > your name.
- Tap iCloud.
- Turn on Music Recognition.
- Turn on Shazam.
To identify songs, open Control Center, then tap the Shazam button . Shazam can identify songs playing on your device even when you're using headphones. To find songs you've identified, touch and hold the Shazam button in Control Center to open your History View. Tap a song to open it in Shazam.How do music recognition apps work? ›
Shazam stores a catalogue of audio fingerprints in a database. The user tags a song for 10 seconds and the application creates an audio fingerprint. Shazam works by analyzing the captured sound and seeking a match based on an acoustic fingerprint in a database of millions of songs.What happens if Shazam doesn't recognize a song? ›
The first step in troubleshooting Shazam, or any app for that matter, is to relaunch the app. If that doesn't make a difference, reboot your device. It's amazing how often that solves the problem. Next, check you're running the latest version of your device software and the Shazam app is up to date as well.Is there a better music recognition app than Shazam? ›
There are more than 25 alternatives to Shazam for a variety of platforms, including Android, Online / Web-based, iPhone, Linux and iPad. The best alternative is SoundHound, which is free. Other great apps like Shazam are Midomi, Mousai, WatZatSong and Musixmatch.How do I use music recognition on my phone? ›
- Open your phone's Settings app.
- Tap Sound & vibration. ...
- Turn on Identify songs playing nearby. ...
- Wait a few minutes while your phone downloads the song database.
- After the download is done, songs playing around you will automatically be identified and shown on your lock screen.
How to Access Your Shazam History on Android
- Open the Shazam app on your phone.
- Tap Library in the top-left corner of the screen.
- Your Shazams will now appear in the Recent Shazams section.
With iCloud Sync, all of your identified songs are saved in the Shazam app and to iCloud. You can access your songs from any iPhone or iPad when you're signed in with your Apple ID, or from any Android device when you're signed in with your email or Google account.What algorithm does Shazam use? ›
Spectogram is the very basis of Shazam's audio fingerprint algorithm. We can think of it as a condensed digital summary of a song. Just like human fingerprints, every song's acoustic fingerprint is unique, and can be easily identified even if there are small variations in data.
Can Shazam recognize live music? ›
The only way Shazam can identify a song during a live performance is if the band is skilled enough to perform the song exactly as it was recorded.
Shazam is a godsend when you want to instantly identify that unknown song playing in the background, but it has a very creepy secret. When looking at Shazam on Apple computers, a security researcher discovered the microphone remains on in the background even when the application is turned off.Does music recognition work without wifi? ›
To identify a song if you're offline, just tap the blue button as usual. Shazam will listen to the song and analyse the tune like always, but then you'll see a message saying that the Shazam has been saved. Tap OK in iOS or Got It! in Android.Does Shazam music recognition cost money? ›
Shazam will identify any song in seconds. Discover artists, lyrics, videos & playlists, all for free.What are the weaknesses of Shazam? ›
It may seem strange, but despite his reliance on lightning for his power, Billy is highly susceptible to electricity. This means that if he is hit with a powerful enough blast of electricity, Shazam will be transformed back into Billy Batson.How many seconds does Shazam need to identify a song? ›
One of the most popular music recognition apps is Shazam. If you capture 20 seconds of a song, no matter if it's intro, verse, or chorus, it will create a fingerprint for the recorded sample, consult the database, and use its music recognition algorithm to tell you exactly which song you are listening to.Can Shazam recognize me singing? ›
Like Siri, Shazam can't recognize a tune that you sing or hum yourself.What is the difference between Shazam and auto Shazam? ›
Use Auto Shazam
When Auto Shazam is on, Shazam matches what you're hearing with songs in the Shazam database — even when you switch to another app. Shazam never saves or stores what it hears. You can then find the Shazams identified with Auto Shazam in your Library, grouped together by date.
Shazam will identify any song in seconds. Discover artists, lyrics, videos & playlists, all for free. Over 1 billion installs and counting! Think you can Beat Shazam?Which music app has best sound quality? ›
- Spotify. Best music streaming service overall. See at Spotify.
- Apple Music. Best alternative to Spotify. See at Apple.
- Qobuz. Best for audiophiles. See at Qobuz.
- Tidal. Best for compensating artists. See at Tidal.
- Amazon Music Unlimited. Best for Prime members. See at Amazon.
Can I use Shazam on my own phone? ›
Shazam is available on the web, iOS, iPadOS, macOS, Apple Watch, Android, Wear OS and a Chrome Extension. As well as using the app, iPhone and iPad users can add a Shazam control in Control Center.How do I use sound recognition on my iPhone? ›
Go to Settings > Accessibility > Sound Recognition > Sounds. Tap Custom Alarm or Custom Appliance or Doorbell, then enter a name. When your alarm, appliance, or doorbell is ready, place iPhone near the sound and minimize background noise. Tap Start Listening, then follow the onscreen instructions.Is Shazam owned by Apple? ›
Know when you hear a great song and wish you knew the title? That's why the Shazam app was invented in 2002, but it's only part of the reason Apple acquired the song recognition tech in 2017 for a reported $400 million.Is Shazam connected to Apple? ›
If you're an Apple Music subscriber, songs that you've Shazamed can be automatically added to a playlist called My Shazam Tracks in the Music app. On iPhone or iPad, swipe up to My Music from the main Shazam screen, tap the Settings button , then turn on “Sync Shazams to Apple Music.”Does iPhone save Shazams? ›
Note that the Music Recognition feature now syncs with the Shazam app, and Shazam song history is also synced across devices, meaning it will show all songs identified from any device signed into the same Apple ID, regardless of whether it was done via the app or Control Center.Can Shazam detect song from same mobile? ›
Open the app and tap Shazam to identify the music playing around you. Shazam will save the identified music in the app's My Music section.Where do auto Shazams go? ›
To view the songs Auto Shazam discovers, open the Shazam app and go to your swipe up your screen (if you're on iPhone) or tap Library (if you're using Android) and look under Recent Shazams. Your Auto Shazams will be grouped by date and have the Auto Shazam label.How do I transfer music from Shazam? ›
- Open Shazam web interface and go to My Library.
- Select Download CSV option in the top of the list.
- On Soundiiz, go to the Playlists tab and choose Import Playlist / From File.
- Upload the .csv file and confirm to import your Shazam list to Spotify.
Shazam makes money via digital sales, encouraging users to purchase the songs they heard on iTunes. The company may also sell vast stores of user data to interested parties.How is Shazam so accurate? ›
First off, the actual audio files are not what is being searched when you Shazam a song. Instead, Shazam has an audio fingerprint for each audio file in the database. The recording that a Shazam user submits is also made into an audio fingerprint which allows them to make comparisons accurately and quickly.
Why does Shazam use microphone in background? ›
For the security researcher who discovered that the mic is always on, it's a bug that users should know about. For Shazam, it's just a feature that makes the app work better. "There is no privacy issue since the audio is not processed unless the user actively turns the app 'ON.How many times can you Shazam a song? ›
If you do not clear the data, you can Shazam the same song a thousand times, only one Shazam will be counted. Repeat the process as many times as you want, with a 5 - 10 minutes break every 5 Shazams. One shazam is done in less than 10 seconds.What is the app called where you can listen to music without Wi-Fi? ›
Audiomack is the GLOBAL streaming music app that lets you download and offline the hottest albums, songs, mixtapes and playlists.Does Shazam app need Wi-Fi? ›
If you don't have an internet connection, the app still creates a unique digital fingerprint to match against the Shazam database the next time your device is connected to the internet. If a song can't be identified, it will disappear from your pending Shazams.Can Shazam play songs offline? ›
Shazam has always been a crowd favorite music discovery app. So far the app allowed you to identify music only when your device was connected to the Internet. But that's no longer the case today! You can now discover music even offline in Shazam on your iPhone.Do artists get paid for Shazam? ›
Shazam does not sell music so artists do not receive payment, but Shazam drives sales in other outlets through music discovery.How many free Shazams do you get? ›
Those paying for the Shazam Encore premium app have long been able to ID as many songs as they like, but free users were limited to five songs a month.Who owns Shazam app? ›
The story of Shazam is one of pure innovation, foresight, and friendship. In 1999, Chris Barton dreamed of a seemingly impossible solution to ambient music recognition and created the team — including friend Dhiraj Mukherjee, classmate Philip Inghelbrecht, and engineer Avery Wang — to make it a reality.How accurate is Shazam app? ›
Shazam correctly identified every song in 10 seconds, except for one track that took 12 seconds. Tallying up its time, Shazam took a total of 62 seconds to ID all songs.How do Shazams powers work? ›
Shazam's Powers and Abilities
He has the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. In effect, this gives a Shazam a very Superman-like suite of abilities that include super-strength, invulnerability and flight.
What does Shazam stand for? ›
#SHAZAM is an acronym that stands for the six ancient heroes whose powers he possesses — Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage) and Mercury (speed). GIF. 3:49 PM · Apr 9, 2019. 2.How does Shazam app make money? ›
Shazam makes money via digital sales, encouraging users to purchase the songs they heard on iTunes. The company may also sell vast stores of user data to interested parties.Does Shazam keep your Shazam history? ›
Thankfully, Shazam keeps all your tracks on the platform, so you can go back and listen to them without having to find them on a music streaming app each time.Can Shazam go off humming? ›
Like Siri, Shazam can't recognize a tune that you sing or hum yourself. If you don't want to use Google for that, then try the SoundHound app (Android or iOS). If you have a Pixel 2 or later Google Pixel phone, there's a handy feature called Now Playing that's built in.What are the 6 powers of Shazam? ›
As mentioned, the word “SHAZAM!” stands for six mythological heroes whose powers Shazam can wield. They are Solomon's wisdom, Hercules' strength, Atlas' stamina, Zeus' lightning power, Achilles' courage, and Mercury's speed.What are the 5 powers of Shazam? ›
Billy Batson (Captain Marvel/Shazam)
Billy has the powers of Solomon (wisdom), Hercules (strength), Atlas (stamina), Zeus (power), Achilles (courage), and Mercury (speed); and served as the wizard Shazam's champion and herald.
While the film shows the Marvel Family displaying one special ability each, they are usually depicted as having the same powers as Shazam (the Wisdom of Solomon, the Strength of Hercules, etc).