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How Shazam Is Giving Apple Music the Street Cred It Needs

Pete Pachal

Pete Pachal

Editorial Director

2 min. read

Apple Music is climbing the charts as the best music streaming service for discovering breakout artists.

Apple just launched a new Top 50 chart, a list of songs from emerging artists that are rising fast. The interesting part is the secret sauce behind the rankings: the chart is powered by data from Shazam, the app that uses a phone’s microphone to determine the name of a song that’s playing within earshot. Apple acquired Shazam in 2018 to the tune of $400 million.

The chart, called the Shazam Discovery Top 50, is a list of tracks Shazam has identified as “up-and-coming songs from breaking artists,” updated weekly. The data from Shazam users (the app “connects” more than 1 billion people, according to the service) is used to create the list, although it’s unclear what filtering Shazam then applies to determine which songs are from artists who are about to break out.

Apple Music certainly isn’t the first music service to offer tools and lists to find breakout talent — in our review of the best music streaming services, we picked Spotify as the best for new music discovery for its own discover playlist and curated radio stations. However, Apple Music’s new chart has the advantage of being able to tap into the huge trove of data created by Shazam’s active users — a much larger number than the roughly 30 million Apple Music subscribers — effectively in real time.

The new chart highlights how useful Shazam’s data can be, beyond simply serving as an early warning system on emerging talent. As Sarah Perez at TechCrunch observes, Shazam can capture trending music at various points in its life cycle. For instance, if an old but not well-known song is featured in a commercial or movie, it could get a new lease on life. Back in 1986, the movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” re-introduced great swaths of Generation X to the Beatles’ “Twist and Shout.”

It’s doubtful the Shazam Top 50 will move the needle for Apple’s subscriber numbers, but it has the potential of elevating the service in the minds of industry observers, scouts, record label executives, and other influencers in music. If Apple’s chart becomes a go-to barometer on which new artists the public is most curious about, it could provide a path for Apple Music to finally find the “street cred” it covets … and that Spotify always seems to have more of.

Image credit: Ali Balikci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

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