June 8, 2016

Which Hits Shazam Doesn’t Spot Early

How Shazam Can Help You Predict Hits: Part 3

In our previous post, we spotlighted the styles of songs Shazam can consistently help you predict. Now, let’s examine situations where Shazam may not give you a heads up on tomorrow’s hits.

Songs that are typically pure Pop CHR, especially by established artists

While Shazam has a proven track record of helping spot hits outside of CHR’s typical sound, Shazam doesn’t perform nearly as well at helping programmers spot Pop and Pop Rock hits from established CHR artists.

Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up And Dance,” Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” and Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song,” actually didn’t show up on Shazam’s Top 10 until a week or two after they were already Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

If you had avoided these pure Pop songs because they weren’t big on Shazam, you would have been late in adding some of 2015’s biggest hits.

So why was Shazam late in predicting some of radio’s biggest hits? The reason lies in why people Shazam a song in the first place—they not only Shazam a song because they like it, they Shazam a song because it’s new and intriguing and they want to know the artist and title. Taylor Swift is one of the most easily recognizable and highly promoted Pop singers today, which is also why she spends relatively few weeks in Shazam’s Top 10:  People know Taylor and her hits, therefore, they don’t need to Shazam them.

Songs that first become big hits on streaming

The reason people use Shazam—to discover the artist and title of a song they don’t know—also explains why Shazam doesn’t register songs that break first on streaming. If you want to hear a song on Spotify or YouTube, you have to type in the title or artist to hear it. Even if you hear a song you didn’t personally choose, through a streaming app like Pandora, Spotify, or a radio station’s streaming app, the artist and title are right there on the app screen. There’s no reason to Shazam songs you hear on these services.

In 2015, many of the hits that first broke on streaming were Hip Hop and R&B hits:

  • Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” was the 36th biggest song on radio, but was the #1 most streamed song. However, “Trap Queen” didn’t become Top 10 on Shazam until the same week it went Top 10 on the Hot 100.
  • Fetty Wap’s “679” only achieved #61 on the Billboard Top 100 but was 11th in streaming and also wasn’t early on Shazam.
  • Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” and The Weekend’s “Earned It” were among the biggest hits on both streaming and on radio. Both songs went Top 10 on Shazam no earlier than they went Top 10 on Billboard.

It’s likely that listeners only Shazam these songs when they start hearing them on the radio. That would explain why songs that were huge on streaming but not on radio, such as Silentó’s “Watch Me” (#3 in streaming in 2015) and T-Wayne’s “Nasty Freestyle” (#21 in streaming in 2015), never entered Shazam’s Top 10.

The fact that these songs are Hip Hop songs isn’t what’s relevant: It’s the fact that these songs first broke on streaming, where artist and title information is front and center, making Shazam unnecessary.

Songs that Shazam said would become Top 10 hits…and didn’t

As our first post noted, 73% of songs that reach Shazam’s Top 10 ultimately become Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. What about the other 27%?  Most of those songs aren’t duds.

  • 21% reach the Top 30 on Billboard, including several songs that were relevant Currents to CHR radio, such as Ellie Goulding’s “On My Mind” and Demi Lovato’s “Cool for the Summer.”

Other songs that reach Shazam’s Top 10 don’t achieve massive crossover appeal, but are still big hits in specific formats.

  • Post Malone’s “White Iverson” and Rich Homie Quan’s “Flex” were both highly relevant to Urban radio.
  • Empire of the Sun’s “Walking On A Dream”, originally from 2008, is having a second run on Alternative radio after appearing in a Honda commercial.

There are a small number (6%) that reach Shazam’s Top 10 and never become real hits, but they’re generally not the kind of songs you’d expect to become big hits for radio anyway.  Examples include:

  • Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Ed Sheeran’s “Growing Up (Sloane’s Song)” which caught listeners’ attention with interesting lyrics (in this case, an ode to parenting), but isn’t the kind of song people ultimately want to hear on the radio.
  • Album cuts, such as the title track from Alabama Shakes’ “Sound & Color”.   

Spotting the 6% of Top 10 most Shazamed songs that never chart at all on the Billboard Hot 100 is usually easy because of the songs themselves; however, these songs are also easy to spot because they only stay in Shazam’s Top 10 for one week.

Next week, we’ll wrap up our How Shazam Can Help You Predict Hits series by giving you three tips for effectively using Shazam.

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