Business

Seeking music edge, Apple buys song recognition app

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

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NEW YORK, United States (AFP) — Apple said Monday that it would buy leading song recognition app Shazam in a fresh bid to secure an edge in the intensifying battle of streaming services.

Apple, whose streaming service has rapidly grown but still has only half the paid subscribers of Spotify, said that Shazam has consistently been one of the most popular items on its App Store.

The two companies did not disclose financial terms. The technology news sites Recode and TechCrunch, quoting unnamed sources, both put the deal at around US$400 million.

“Apple Music and Shazam are a natural fit, sharing a passion for music discovery and delivering great music experiences to our users,” Apple said in a statement.

“We have exciting plans in store, and we look forward to combining with Shazam upon approval of today's agreement,” it added.

Meanwhile, London-based Shazam said in a separate statement: “We can't imagine a better home for Shazam to enable us to continue innovating and delivering magic for our users.”

Shazam, which was founded in 1999 in the early age of online music, has offered a solution to a long-time agony of listeners — putting a name to elusive songs. With a click, the app identifies tracks playing on the radio, at parties, or as background music.

But Shazam has struggled to find a way to make money off its technology, even as it said that it had reached one billion downloads on smartphones last year.

Shazam only recently said it had become profitable thanks to advertising and steering traffic to other sites such as Spotify and Apple Music.

The technology is also no longer quite as novel, with Shazam facing rivals such as SoundHound and with latest-generation smartphones capable of ever-more- advanced recognition functions.

TECH BATTLE TURNS TO SERVICES

Apple, which revolutionised online music a generation earlier with iTunes, in 2015 launched Apple Music as the market turns to streaming, which offers unlimited, on-demand listening.

Apple said in September that the service had more than 30 million subscribers — a quick rise, but still trailing Spotify.

Spotify — which has emphasised a bare-bones, user-friendly interface instead of unique features — said it had 60 million paying users as of July and 80 million more on its free tier.

And with streaming experiencing rapid growth, competition has become even fiercer.

Retail giant Amazon seized on its vast consumer reach as it launched its own streaming service last year.

YouTube, the video-sharing behemoth owned by Apple's rival Google, also has its own music streaming platform, and recent reports said it was looking to launch a new paid subscription package next year.

Shazam has already proven it can be woven into another service. A year ago it formed a partnership with SnapChat, the youth-driven social media platform whose videos evaporate, with users able to “snap” to friends the music they discover around them on Shazam.

Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData Retail, said the Shazam sale “underlines the fact that the battle of the technology companies is firmly moving beyond hardware and into services”.

“This is a good move for Apple that helps to consolidate its already strong position in music content. It won't be the last takeover of a tech firm by these big giants,” he said.

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