Databases and Music

by Wendy O

Logo of Shazam

Shazam is a mobile application that can identify songs. It does this by recording up to 15 seconds of the song you are listening to and then sends it to their database to find the match. They do this by storing “fingerprints” of over 8 million songs on their database. When the application records the song you are listening to, it records it in the same way that their other songs are stored in their database. This allows a match to be found. The fingerprint is a spectrogram that has been generated for each song. Specifically, it is a 3 dimension graph with the time on the (x) axis, and the frequency and amplitude on the (y) axis. This spectrogram stores only the intense sounds in the song, the frequency, and at what time during the song they appear. This creates the “fingerprint”.

Shazam has approximately 150 million users with over 4 million songs tagged each day. According to the article in the NY Times, they are expanding their product and working with TV shows and retailers. They reported to have raised over $32 million in venture capital this last June.


It was great to read how a database can be used to store fingerprints of music. It has brought something to the industry that many of us had been waiting to be developed. I think it really represents the power of a well developed database and the impact it can have on any industry.

My personal opinion is that Shazam was an innovative product. It is very convenient for the average consumer. There have been many times where my friends and I have been hanging out and a random song comes on that no one knows the name of or who sings it, but we like it. Ever since Shazam we’ve been able to identify the song and download it via iTunes immediately after tagging it. It beats the old days where we would intensely have to listen to the song on the radio hoping that the DJ will announce the title or artist, only to be disappointed by a commercial or another song playing immediately after. And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you were probably born in the 90s.


Wortham, J. (2011, June 22). Shazam identifies the sound of fresh venture funds. Retrieved from Http://bits. Blogs. Nytimes. Com/2011/06/22/shazam-identifies-the-sound-of-fresh-venture-funds/.

Surdu, Nicolae. (2011, January 20). How does shazam work to recognize a song?. Retrieved from Http://www. Soyoucode. Com/2011/how-does-shazam-recognize-song.

5 thoughts on “Databases and Music”

  1. I have experimented with Shazam a few times, and from what I have seen, the application does a great job of finding songs that the radio was playing. The only problem is that radio stations these days are usually playing the same song over and over again, and their song selection is awful (well for me at least). Shazam seems to serve as a music discovery tool for many people; however, I don’t see that happening for me., Pandora, and Spotify allow me to find new artists that I have never listened to before, and artist information is always present, thus making Shazam useless for me. I guess I have to go to more parties that have DJs, but what are the chances of the DJ actually playing a song that might pique my interest?

  2. I think I’ll try this mobile application. Is it available for use on all phones? I’ve seen Shazam sponsor the show ALPHAS on the SIFI channel, but never knew what it was till now. I’m a little curious to know if the coding can be used to incorporate voice, image or video recognition. I’m sure security companies could put that to good use.

  3. It is completely app for me. I never know there is such application for mobile. I will find and try it.

  4. I love Shazam as an application. It is great that people are finding new uses for databases everyday. I would say that in this case, the average user doesn’t even know he is tapping into the huge library of a database in order to find out the name of the song he’s listening to. Databases are constantly growing and finding themselves to become a very important and useful tool in almost any aspect of our lives.

  5. Shazam is amazing, its functionality continues to amaze me how it can match ever increasingly abstract songs and artist. it has found me some good music for sure. but i wonder if this is going to be the limitation of this technology. will somebody someday be able to take this unique method of finding music and be able identify individuals in the same manner we use biometrics? can it one day be used to pick individual voices in a crowd and be able to locate specific people of interest.

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