Next iOS May Add Shazam Music Discovery

Have you ever heard a song you never heard before while you were out and about and wished you knew its title and artist? iOS soon may be able to tell you. The next version is expected to be unveiled at the Apple Developers Conference in San Francisco in June.

Apple is working with Shazam Entertainment to incorporate into iOS 8 a feature that allows a song’s title and artist to be identified from a sound grab through the microphone in an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, according to Bloomberg.

That capability is in the apps made by Shazam for iOS and Android. It’s also in the latest version of Windows Phone and Google Next.

“This is a logical next step in the evolution to iTunes,” Tim Bajarin, president of Creative Strategies, told the E-Commerce Times.

“So many times a person hears a song and can’t ID it — or if they do, they might want to download it right away. This technology would allow users to get this type of info and would be a great new feature for iTunes,” he said.

Goose Download Sales

The sound ID technology has been around for some time, so why has it taken Apple so long to adopt it?

“You figure they would have done this a long time ago since this a natural way to connect music you’re listening to to a song you might want to buy,” said Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group.

“Placing this in the OS as a core feature is something Apple should have done five or six years ago,” he told the E-Commerce Times.

“It could provide an uptick in music sales,” he added, but “it would have had a much bigger impact had they done it some time ago, because there are a number of products in the market now that do this.”

Still, there are some advantages to users if the technology is incorporated into the operating system at this late date.

“By putting it in the OS, they can make it easier to get to — they can make it more automatic and they can tie it to Siri,” Enderle said.

With revenues from music downloads being eroded by streaming services like Spotify, YouTube, Slacker and Pandora, sound ID might be a way to hold the line for download sales at the iTunes store.

Revenues from downloads declined 2.1 percent in 2013, while revenues from streaming services jumped 51.3 percent and cracked the US$1 billion mark for the first time, according to the IFPI.

Streaming Future Beachhead

“More and more, we’re starting to see people subscribe to music services, so Apple has to do something to hold on to the customers in its ecosystem,” Stephen Baker, an analyst with the NPD Group told the E-Commerce Times.

Although download sales accounted for more than two-thirds of the $5.9 billion in digital music sales last year, that’s expected to continue to slip in coming years.

“Downloads have flattened or dropped off, so [sound ID] could be a way for Apple to prime its pump for more download sales,” Gartner Vice President Michael McGuire told the E-Commerce Times.

Nevertheless, downloads won’t be going away.

“People still want to own media,” McGuire said. “Like vinyl, we’ll always see pockets of consumers who want to own and maintain a library on a set of hard drives that’s accessible across all their devices.”

Apple, which owns 63 percent of the download market for music, came to the streaming party late with the launch of iTunes Radio. The service runs only on iOS 7 and above. It’s free, with some advertising, but listeners are limited to choosing genres of music to hear. The service also is limited to the United States, but that could change soon.

“iTunes Radio is a beachhead for Apple’s streaming future,” McGuire said. “Right now, though, it’s serving the purpose of letting people sample and buy music.”

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and contributor to Chief Security Officer magazine. You can connect with him on Google+.

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