A new generation of music fans discovered Led Zeppelin by watching the September finale of Entourage, the HBO series.
Viewers who had the music identification app Shazam installed on their smartphones tagged the Zeppelin classic “Going to California,” which played at the end of the episode as two planes bearing most of the cast took flight from California, about 23,000 times during the week it aired. This was a major spike for the song on Shazam, and the effect lingered for the following five weeks.
Indie bands that place songs in television series or even ads, though their fans might cringe, can apparently count on the boob tube as a legitimate way to promote their music — assuming it strikes people in the right way and causes them to want to learn more, that is.
Shazam, which started about ten years ago as a “dumbphone app” that sent audio over the phone to identify songs, has evolved into the fourth most popular app in iTunes and can now found on just about any smartphone platform. As such, it has unique insight into the music people want to know more about — otherwise they wouldn’t be trying to tag the song.
According to what Shazam executive vice president David Jones told Evolver.fm, now that Shazam has removed the monthly limits on how many songs people can tag, users have been tagging songs not necessarily because they don’t know what they are, but just to share what they’ve heard with friends, either through Shazam’s own social network, which shares everything you tag with your friends there, or on Facebook and Twitter, which share tags when you tap an extra button.
He might be right that people are tagging songs they already know in some cases, but we have a feeling this was the standard music ID app scenario: Entourage viewers heard something beautiful, didn’t know what it was, and wanted to learn more.
Jones also mentioned that Shazam has been working on ways to filter out the dialogue in television shows in order to identify music there (more on Shazam and television later). Indeed, some dialogue obscures Led Zeppelin’s song in the final Entourage episode, but Shazam appears to have identified it anyway.
(Confidential image from an internal presentation courtesy of Shazam)