Apple is reportedly buying Shazam

Embracing Siri.
Embracing Siri.
Image: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan
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Siri might actually be able to figure out what song you’re listening to at the bar now.

Apple is planning to purchase Shazam, the music discovery app, for around £300 million ($395 million), TechCrunch reported on Friday (Dec. 8). As of 2015, the 18-year-old company’s valuation was around $1 billion, according to Pitchbook, and the deal would be one of the largest acquisitions of a UK company by a Silicon Valley giant, according to the Financial Times (paywall). Apple declined to comment on the reported sale.

Shazam was founded in 1999, and originally operated a service where people could call a phone number, hold the receiver up to a source of music, and then be texted the name of the song and its artist. In 2008, with the launch of Apple’s App Store, the company released an iPhone app that could name just about any song in a matter of seconds. The app has rarely dropped out of the Top 100 most-dowloaded apps on the store since then, according to App Annie.

Siri, the built-in digital assistant in Apple’s mobile software, has for a few years been able to identify songs when asked, but it’s not quite as quick or as accurate as Shazam. Using Shazam’s audio-detection software could not only bolster that feature in Siri, but perhaps help it understand users better in general. Although Apple was the first company to include a digital assistant in its mobile software, it has since been passed in competence and capabilities by the likes of Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa.

Early next year, after a few months’ delay, Apple will release the HomePod, its answer to Google’s Home and Amazon’s Echo smart-speaker devices. Apple has focused the device on audio quality, pricing it around three times as much as its competitors’ devices. Siri will be the main way users interact with HomePod.

By purchasing Shazam, Apple would likely also be receiving a trove of data on all the songs that its users have searched for. This could be useful for both figuring out what new content to provide on services like iTunes and Apple Music, but also a new channel through which to sell those services. If a user discovers the latest Ed Sheehan song on an Apple-owned Shazam (or through Siri), that user could ask Siri to purchase that song on iTunes, or queue it up on an Apple Music playlist. Given that Apple’s services business is now its second-largest, this doesn’t seem like a terrible idea for the company.