music-2013

For me, Shazam was one of the earliest “holy shit” services of the mobile age. You mean with the press of a button, a piece of software could identify whatever song was playing on the radio, at a bar, or in a movie? It wasn’t exactly a flying car, but as a rabid music fan who grew up in the pre-digital age frustrated by radio stations’ unwillingness to just tell us who sang the damned song, Shazam felt, like its comic book namesake, nothing short of magical.

Of course in the years since, the excitement around Shazam has waned, as none of its new features have really gotten America’s heart pumping. Does anybody really want to use Shazam to “engage” with television commercials?

But today’s partnership with Rdio, while not quite magic, is at least the first big value-add to the service in years.

Starting today, after identifying a piece of music, Rdio subscribers can enable full playback of the song, as long as it’s in Rdio’s catalog. Or, if a user prefers, a song can be instantly added to an Rdio playlist to listen to later. This effectively closes the loop so that users can identify a song they hear organically then play it back all in one app. The ability to add to a playlist for later is especially appealing, because most the time when you hear a song situationally, you’re in a bar, at a party, or in the car, and you probably don’t want to take the time to save it as a note that you’ll likely forget about anyway.

From Rdio’s perspective, the partnership represents a growing trend in the music streaming space where songs are liberated from their first-party app to be played from any social or music app a user happens to be in at the time.

Last week, I covered an app called Bop.fm which brings together music from a wide range of streaming services, including Spotify, YouTube, Rdio, and Beats, all under one app. These developments forecast a shift in the way we think about music streaming services: Instead of standalone apps, Spotify and Rdio are becoming more like platforms, or layers of software that can be added to power music streams for any service under the sun. Techcrunch’s Josh Constine wrote about this trend in March, saying Spotify wanted to become “The Facebook Connect” of music.

Shazam will almost certainly bring on more streaming partners, but the fact that Rdio is the first marks a considerable win for the company which, as I wrote two weeks ago, is in a precarious but promising position compared to its competitors. There’s a certain hipster cachet and independence possessed by Rdio that other streaming services don’t have which, according its new COO Marc Ruxin, can make partners more likely to team up with them in order to grab the early adopters or “cool kids.” And as the music streaming game continues its shift to more platform-based models, these partnerships will be crucial to winning, or at least sharing in the spoils, of the music streaming wars.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]