MMW-46 -- Interview with Shazam's Business Director

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on the week's music technology news

Issue No. 46
Saturday, July 5, 2003



++ FEATURE: Interview with Shazam's Business Director

** Yamaha Brings Ringtone Service to US
** Roland to Release Infrared-Capable Digital Piano
** Sprint, Sony Music Entertainment to Offer MP3 Clips
for Cellphones

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++ FEATURE: Interview with Shazam's Business Director

Philip Inghelbrecht is business director for UK-based Shazam
Entertainment, which provides music recognition technology and
services. Shazam has recently won several industry awards for its
service, including Best New Mobile Service at the 2002 Mobile Choice
Awards and Best Innovation at the BT Openworld Interactive Music
Awards 2002.

MMW: How did Shazam get started, and how has the company grown and
changed since its inception?

Inghelbrecht: Shazam was founded in December 1999 by four people.
Chris Barton originally came up with the concept of identifying songs
over a mobile phone. He then called upon Dhiraj Mukherjee and myself
to co-found the company. The three of us then needed to find someone
who could build the technology that would enable Shazam to identify
songs from a short and sometimes distorted sample of sound. We spoke
to many experts in the field of digital signal processing and found
Dr. Avery Wang.

Chris and I were still in Business School (at UC Berkeley in
California) when starting Shazam. We both decided to spend our final
months before graduation starting a new business. While Chris, Dhiraj
and myself were busy writing our business plan, incorporating the
company and other tasks necessary to start a new company between
December 1999 and August 2000, Avery spent day and night building the
robust technology and was able to make the key invention needed to
enable the Shazam recognition service. With a rudimentary prototype,
the four of us brought in $1 million in angel funding between August
2000 and February 2001. Our first employees were hired in early 2001,
growing to eight to 10 people by summer.

Shazam now has 35 employees. We have recently launched in Germany on
Vodafone D2, and we are very close to rolling out in many other
countries by the end of this year.

MMW: Can you tell us a little bit about your music recognition
technology and explain what distinguishes it from competing wave
recognition technologies such as that offered by Gracenote and

Inghelbrecht: Shazam's technology is based on fingerprinting and is
different from the companies you mention above in that it is faster,
supports larger FP databases, is noise resilient and identifies music
from any source. Shazam can recognize over 1.7 million songs in
locations such as bars, automobiles, restaurants -- anywhere that has
mobile reception. Other companies similar to Shazam only work on radio
for specific metropolitan areas.

Shazam's technology is also very accurate -- depending on the noise
level, we attain an accuracy between 70 percent (e.g. mobile
recognition) and 99.9-plus percent (broadcast monitoring). We only
need a few seconds of the song to do a successful search.

MMW: How large is the database of songs that you can identify, and how
was the database compiled?

Inghelbrecht: The database counts 1.7 million songs today, growing
with about 5,000 new songs every week. It includes the entire active
UK CD catalogue, except for classical music. Having launched in
Germany, it also includes key German music. The database was compiled
through relationships with various companies in the music industry
(labels, promoters, distributers, et cetera). As part of the database
building process, we key in all relating metadata and scan the cover
art of the CD. This is to prepare for MMS capabilities where users can
receive a message with the cover art of the CD of the song they have

MMW: Do you have any plans for bringing your service to the Japanese

Inghelbrecht: We are in advanced discussion with several Japanese
companies, including technology companies, trading houses and the
mobile carriers. We have not yet announced our launch plans, but are
finding, not surprisingly, a very high level of interest in music
recognition services, as Japan is a highly advanced mobile and mobile
entertainment market.

MMW: What proportion of your business now is related to mobile music?

Inghelbrecht: Currently, most of Shazam's business is related to
mobile music, but we are also offering services that apply our
patent-pending technology to areas like radio/ad monitoring, royalty
collection, et cetera.

MMW: Can you give any sales figures?

Inghelbrecht: For our mobile business, we don't publish sales figures,
but we had almost half a million people using the service since we
launched in late August last year. We have the service up and running
with all the operators in the UK and with Vodafone Germany (under
their own brand as "Vodafone MusicFinder").

MMW: What has been the most challenging or difficult part of
establishing your mobile services?

Inghelbrecht: Probably convincing the mobile operators that music
recognition as a service that generates both voice and data revenue is
worth supporting. Particularly in Europe, mobile operators still
insist on keeping a large share of the revenues, while mostly what
they do is just providing infrastructure and billing. In some Asian
countries, mobile operators seem to be more supportive, both in
marketing and in giving more revenue share to content providers, which
is probably one of the reasons why more content providers with a much
broader range of products are in the market.

MMW: What has been the most rewarding aspect of starting your own
music-recognition business?

Inghelbrecht: The most rewarding aspect has been the ability to build
a real company from what sounded like an impossible idea, as well as
receiving support from so many people, including investors and
friends, along the way.


** Yamaha Brings Ringtone Service to US

In Brief: Yamaha announced on Monday that it has started a new
polyphonic ringtone service in the US for Verizon Wireless' "Get It
Now" subscribers. Yamaha has partnered with Moviso to provide the
service, which will begin with around 200 ringtones. Currently, the
only handset that is supported is Motorola's T720 model, which
contains Yamaha's MA-3 sound generation chip. However, Yamaha says
that the VX 4400 from LG Infocomm will also be supported in the near


** Roland to Release Infrared-Capable Digital Piano

In Brief: Last week, Roland announced that it will launch a new
digital piano with infrared communications capability on July 9. The
piano, called the "KR-7iR," will be able to receive musical data for
automatic playing from an i-mode mobile phone via infrared
communications. The retail price for the digital piano is expected to
be around 360,000 yen. Additionally, Roland will also offer a musical
data distribution service for i-mode that will provide more than 7,000
musical data titles for download.


** Sprint, Sony Music Entertainment to Offer MP3 Clips for Cellphones

In Brief: On Monday, Sprint and Sony Music Entertainment announced
they had reached an agreement whereby Sprint will offer ringtones
created by the Sony Music Mobile Products Group, including animated
ringtones, MP3 song clips and recordings of voices and sound effects.
In addition, Sprint will offer Java applications based on multimedia
content from Sony Music artists. The new service will be available to
PCS Vision subscribers throughout the US.


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Written by: Steve Myers (
Steve Myers is president and chief enthusiast of Theta Music
Technologies, which specializes in the development of music-related
software applications.

Edited by J@pan Inc editors: (


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