[photo] Mark Jeftovic

easyDNS CEO, Career Contrarian & AntiGuru

The time I almost invented Shazam

Screen Shot 2015-01-23 at 1.02.27 PM   Many years ago I was ostensibly on the advisory board of a company called “Predixis”, (later MusicIP). They were a service that had digitized a boatload of music and their raison d’etre was to be able to predict, based on what songs were in your library, what other songs you would like.

Try as I might I could never really get galvanized around this idea. It worked ok. I ran my band The Parkdale Hookers through it and it came back with The D4. That was well done, when we went into the the studio to record the first Hooker’s EP we literally handed that same D4 CD to the engineer and said “We want to sound like these guys”.

But I still never got really excited, not enough to sell my shares in easyDNS and go run it, as the VC who had funded them once suggested to me (not sure how serious he actually was about that. I’m glad I never took him up on it).

Then one night I was driving home and some song came on the radio and I really liked it. But I also realized that this was in the midst of a long sequence of non-stop music and I’d probably miss the announcer saying who they were and what it was. (To this day I still don’t know what song that was, but I can still remember it).

That’s when it hit me.  Never mind a magic black box to tell me what I might like. Give me a magic black box that tells me what I like right now. I quickly thought through the main details: you would need a huge database of music. Predixis already had that. You would need some way to sample what you were listening to, and be able to send it in for processing and then get an answer back.

The best I could come up with was maybe a telephone number you could call with your cellphone, hold it in front of your speaker. Then… I don’t know. Maybe the system would email you later with an ID on the song. It was a stretch, but everybody had a cell phone, and cell phones had microphones.

Now I was excited.

I got home and I couldn’t sleep. Finally around midnight I emailed the VC who had funded Predixis, I cc-ed the CEO and told them, “We’ve got it all wrong. It’s backwards. People don’t want predictions, those are iffy. But if you can give them certainty “What am I listening to right now?!”, that was worth something.

One of them emailed back the next morning and more or less told me it was a dumb idea. I sort of drifted out of the picture after that. About a year or so later the iPhone came out and it bundled with a nifty new app called SHAZAM! which to this day is probably one of the most used app on my device. Even my daughter (age 8) will routinely grab my phone while we’re driving and say “I’m going to shazam this, I like it”.

Billboard just reported that Shazam ‘s latest funding round valued them at 1 billion dollars. I read a couple years back they were doing a run rate at around 300 million/year.

Good for them.

(I’m not sure whatever happened to Predixis/MusicIP)

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