The incredibly difficult task of making Apple Music for Artists’ Shazam data count

About triangulating Shazams to real world events, listeners and true music fans

Why can’t Apple Music for Artists overlay Shazam data “by song” on top of Shazam data “by city”?

Also imagine if Apple Music for Artists shared with artists the time stamps on Shazams, beyond the date, like the specific hour and minute people were Shazam’ing an artist’s music?

In matching Apple Music for Artists Shazam data to real world events where listeners are “Shazaming” an independent artist’s music, I think the following generalizations are true.

Let’s label these generalizations as “Categories” of Shazam behavior.

  • Category One: 1 Shazam in a particular city on specific day = likely hotel lobby, retailer, small bar etc playing an artist’s music and a guest / visitor there Shazamed that song

Regarding the last category, even if the music is really good, a tally of 5 or higher Shazams in a single location indicates that there are music fans concentrated in a setting who actively Shazam and are very interested in music. Since live music can’t really be properly Shazam’d, this means fans are attending a DJ event or nightclub playing recorded music.

Following are my Apple Music for Artists stats for the period of January 3rd through 9th looking at the number of Shazams for my music group, FSQ.

Given the results — How would I classify the behavior of listeners using Shazam to identify FSQ music?

On January 4th and January 7th two songs in the FSQ library received 7 Shazams

These stats show me that on January 4th, FSQ received 9 overall Shazams from listeners across the globe. On January 7th, FSQ received 8 overall Shazams.

For both of these big days, I went deeper into what specific songs were Shazam’d on what dates. Apple doesn’t make this easy: you have to toggle on each song’s data display on to appear on the graph, and review the specific number of Shazams on each particular day. It’s research intensive and not user friendly.

I discovered that on January 4th, 7 out of the 9 Shazams — or 77% — were on one song: FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald.

FSQ songs Shazam’d on Saturday, January 4th

On January 7th, 7 out of the 8 Shazams — or 87% — were on one song, FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald — the Soul Clap Remix.

FSQ songs Shazam’d on Tuesday, January 7th

Being the Shazam #’s on these particular songs were greater than 2, I would then put the Shazam behavior in “Category Two” or “Category Three”.

If it turned out that the Shazams for the one song that received the majority of attention that day all originated in one city, I would say a DJ had played our music and that the fans attending the venue liked the tune and Shazam’d it. That would be a “Category Three”.

5–10 Shazams in a specific city on the same day = a DJ played an artist’s song in a dance music club or other music focused venue.

We recently experienced a “Category Three” Shazam data event: The Apple Music for Artists data told me that a single city was tallying up all of the Shazams on a single FSQ song. It was the result of a DJ in Athens, Greece playing our tune “Shades of Yello”.

On November 23rd, “Shades of Yello” received 5 Shazams — all in Athens. On December 7th, the same song and city, this time 8 Shazams. Through asking my network on Facebook, which of course includes other DJ friends, I was able to pin down the spins to a DJ / producer named NTEIBINT aka George Bakalakos

A DJ playing another artist’s music is trackable because of Shazam behavior,especially with regards to fans Shazaming music a DJ play, and how Apple Music for Artists platform captures / tracks Shazams.

In the case of the January 3–9 Apple Music for Artists / Shazam data set for FSQ, the Shazams aren’t as concentrated in a single city.

Looking at the January 4th data, where:

7 out of the 9 Shazams — or 77% — were on one song, FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald.

Looking at the city list following for that day, I am going to say we have a “Category Two” Shazam event here where:

2–10 Shazams across a few cities in a particular country on a specific day or across a few days time = local radio or internet radio played a song by that artist and radio listeners Shazamed that song from that show, either live during the broadcast or on show’s replay

On January 4th, the bulk of FSQ shazams were concentrated in Germany, but not in a single city

So let’s say German radio — played that FSQ song and it touched Frankfurt and Berlin in Germany and either Rotterdam, Netherlands or Brussels, Belgium also tuned in as they are in close proximity. It can’t be both Rotterdam and Brussels as the total count of Shazams for the song would then be 8, not the 7 counted. The last city on the list here, Almaty, is in Kazakistan, so that’s totally an outlier here, and makes up the Shazam on the other song that day — Life on Planets “Cold Front” — FSQ Northern Soul Remix.

So what happened on January 4th with FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald? My hunch is true — a Category Two Shazam event with one of my songs. How do I know?

I am already aware that many radio stations — both terrestrial broadcast and internet — use Twitter to share the name of every single song they play. I have Twitter alerts already set up to let me know when “FSQ” and “Song Title Name” are tweeted.

So I know via the alerts that there is this tweet from January 4th from German broadcaster Flux.fm telling me that they did indeed play the song:

I also use World Airplay Radio Monitor aka WARM platform to track the playback of songs in my catalog of FSQ music. WARM is a paid subscription service for artists or artist managers looking to keep track of how radio is using their music.

WARM corroborates that Flux.fm indeed played FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald at this time and date of January 4th, 2020. In fact, the song was played a few times that day across their network of various channels.

WARM Radio Airplay Stats for FSQ’s “I Zimbra” on January 4th, 2020

It is SO SUPER COOL that you can triangulate DJ play or radio play to listener interest via these disparate data points— Apple Music for Artists Shazam, Broadcast Radio Analytics, Twitter, and direct DJ feedback.

KEXP — a major public radio station in Seattle, Washington-has a playlist Twitter bot. A Twitter alert for “FSQ” and this particular song showed me that KEXP recently played our latest release.

When I say “listener interest” I mean Shazam, because if a listener is “Shazaming” a song by an artist, that explicitly means they like the song or at least are interested. They don’t know the song or artist name and they want to receive that information.

The triangulation of data here tells me that the airplay of FSQ’s “I Zimbra” on Flux.fm radio on January 4th, led 7 people across Germany (and The Netherlands or Belgium) to want to identify our song using Shazam.

However as you see it’s not easy to triangulate Shazam data to playback events; you really have to dig in on as many different areas as you can possibly turn up. Furthermore, as I said at the beginning of the post here, it would be VERY helpful if Apple Music for Artists allowed users to:

  • Overlay Shazam by Song data on top of Shazam by City data

Regardless, with my research and data sources, I was able to discover the January 4th surge in FSQ Shazams was indeed tied to radio airplay on Flux.fm.

Unfortunately, triangulating a surge in Shazams to a real world playback event is not always that easy …

For instance, what about January 7th where:

7 out of the 8 Shazams — or 87% — were on one song, FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald — the Soul Clap Remix.

It’s almost impossible to discern why this one FSQ song got heard across the world on Jan 7th

On January 7th, it may be that the broadcast of FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald — the Soul Clap Remix was on an internet radio station that has a much more global audience than Flux.fm. Shazams of that FSQ song on that day were spread across several cities in the US, London UK, Athens Greece, and Bogota Colombia.

I can’t rule out any of these locations because Apple Music for Artists again — does NOT allow you to overlay Shazam by Song data with Shazam by City data. We know that FSQ’s “Babyface” Disco remix was the additional 1 Shazam on January 7th to make 8 Shazams total of FSQ on the date, however we can’t tie that one specific song Shazam to any particular city.

Without the timestamps on the Shazams we will never know if FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald — the Soul Clap Remix tallied 7 different Shazams at various parts of the day for random reasons or was Shazamed all at once from a single playback point, like a broadcast.

I did not have WARM Radio airplay monitoring this FSQ — Soul Clap remix that attained 7 Shazams on January 7th, but I just put a monitor subscription on this song so maybe I will be able to get the data for this date. Twitter is telling me nothing about this song’s playback on January 7th.

Was January 7th a “Category Two” Shazam behavior based on a global broadcast of an FSQ song or an aggregate of “Category One” behaviors all around the same song? Again, Category One Shazam Behavior:

1 Shazam in a particular city on specific day = hotel lobby, retailer, small bar etc is playing an artist’s music and a guest / visitor there Shazamed that song

Or was it something else? I will continue to dig. But you see how complicated this is-tying Shazam use to real world events. And this data matters again, because Shazams are a demarcation of a potential fan’s interest in an artist’s music.

UPDATE:

Shortly after publishing this post about noon time New York City time, I got up and went for lunch.

That gave me some time to consider my analysis and away from the computer, I started thinking about how to triangulate the 7 Shazams of FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald — the Soul Clap Remix. These 7 Shazams were made on Tuesday, January 7th.

Remember these Shazams were spread across the globe, they were not concentrated.

Soul Clap Records Radio Show on The Lot Radio is broadcast in New York but as an internet radio station it has a global following!

Ahhhhh, I remembered! Tuesday afternoons belong to Soul Clap Records on The Lot Radio. The Lot Radio is broadcast out of Brooklyn, New York City but has very engaged global following as it is primarily an internet radio station.

I went back and checked Soul Clap Records’ Tuesday, January 7th program on The Lot Radio, and indeed they played FSQ’s “I Zimbra” featuring Dolette McDonald — the Soul Clap Remix. It’s written right in the playlist of the show archive on Mixcloud and can be found one hour and twenty minutes into the broadcast.

It’s incredible to think 7 people across the globe listening to the program liked the FSQ song so much as to Shazam it. Triangulation complete and mystery solved.

Digital Media Biz Dev+FUNK music making. Personal Page. Present @Gracenotetweets @George_Clinton @fsqofficial. Past @CNET @WSJ @CiscoSystems @officialfm @acquia