Music to Shazam’s ears as Apple reportedly makes $400m offer

11 Dec 2017

Shazam app on Apple Watch 3. Image: Sirichai Puangsuwan/Shutterstock

$400m sounds like the right number of notes for music app Shazam.

Apple is reportedly buying music-recognition app Shazam for $400m in cash, signalling that AI has a role to play in the future of music.

If the acquisition goes ahead, it will be the biggest music acquisition Apple has added to its repertoire since it bought Dr Dre’s Beats Electronics in 2014 for $3bn.

Founded in the UK, Shazam was set up in 1999 by Chris Barton, Philip Inghelbrecht, Avery Wang and Dhiraj Mukherjee.

One of the most popular apps in the world, it is used by more than 500m devices, has been downloaded 1bn times and has identified more than 15bn songs.

The app uses the smartphone or computer’s in-built microphone to gather an acoustic footprint, which it then checks off against its database of music.

TechCrunch reported at the weekend that Apple is close to acquiring Shazam for around $400m. This is lower than the $1.02bn valuation the company had in its last funding round in 2015.

Shazam made revenues of £40.3m in 2016 but had losses of £4m.

Deep tech beats

So, why is Apple sniffing around Shazam?

Well, if you’ve been paying close attention to Apple in recent months, AI and machine learning feature big in devices such as the iPhone X. For example, machine learning in the iPhone X’s cameras compose the perfect shot before you even take the photo.

And, with Apple Music gaining more and more followers, catching up quick on rival platforms such as Spotify, it is not inconceivable that Shazam could complement iTunes harmoniously. For example, perhaps new features could include AI to identify the next song you would like to hear even if you’d never heard it before?

It is all part of the rich tapestry that data – and, in particular, deep tech such as AI and AR – could potentially add to our lives.

In some ways, Shazam is also a kind of social network, informing music-lovers of the kinds of music their favourite artists are ‘shazaming’, for example.

Linking the popular app with Apple Music could give the California tech giant a considerable edge in the deep tech future of music.

Shazam app on Apple Watch 3. Image: Sirichai Puangsuwan/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years