Beatmatching: Shazam Adds 1.5 Million Dance Tracks to Database

Shazam it! / Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/AFP/Getty Images

As club culture migrates online, thanks to DJ mixes posted to SoundCloud and real-time streaming venues like Boiler Room, technology has enabled clubbers unprecedented access to information about the music being played. Gone are the days when DJs could keep their music secret by spinning white labels (or even covering their records’ center stickers with fake labels, as dancehall’s competitive selectors once did). A cut on DJ Koze’s forthcoming album, “Track ID Anyone?” pokes fun at the cat-and-mouse came between cagey DJs and curious clubbers, while Four Tet takes the trope even further with the SEO-friendly title of his new single, “The Track I’ve Been Playing that People Keep Asking About and that Joy Used In His RA Mix and Daphni Played on Boiler Room.”

One reason for all those “Track ID?” threads on dance-music forums is that Shazam, the popular music-identification app, has a terrible track record when it comes to music that goes oonce-oonce-oonce. It’s hard to know whether that’s because of a stylistic bias built into its algorithm — putting more emphasis on pop music’s vocals and melodic figures, say, than electronic music’s shifting timbres and intricate beat patterns — or simply a lack of club tracks in its collection, currently estimated at upwards of 25 million songs. The latter issue, at least, is about to be partially rectified, as Shazam partners with Beatport to add 1.5 million songs from the dance-music retailer’s catalog to its database. (Full disclosure: I used to write for Beatport.)

According to the New York Times, dance music accounted for 31 of the app’s 100 most frequently tagged songs last year, making it one of Shazam’s most popular genres. Given Beatport’s extensive catalog of niche sounds and underground styles, the partnership should, in theory, improve the tagging of dubstep, tech house, trance, and other specialist subgenres. Will Mills, Shazam’s director of music and content, even says that the app will be able to identify songs that have been sped up or slowed down, as they often are in DJ mixes. (If that’s true, it must be a new development: Shazam is notoriously spotty when it comes to records that have been re-pitched.)

It looks like a win-win situation for producers and fans alike: Artists and their labels stand to sell (or at least promote) more music, while clubbers will potentially be freed from hours of fruitless searching through forums and YouTube. One major drawback, of course: Get ready to see a lot more cell phones on the dance floor.


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