Battleline drawn: SoundHound/Spotify vs. Shazam/Rdio

SoundHound to Spotify 300wIn what appears to be a targeted competitive thrust, song-identification platform SoundHound announced an app update that connects more substantially to music subscription service Spotify. The alliance and the update appear to comprise a thrust-and-parry to competitor Shazam and its recently completed deal with Rdio.

The new feature enables SoundHound users who are also Spotify subscribers to easily build a Spotify playlist of songs which SoundHound has identified. The usage scenario goes like this:

  • Point the SoundHound app at a song on radio, TV, in a club, or simply sing into it;
  • Wait for SoundHound to identify the song;
  • Add the track to a “Found on SoundHound” playlist in Spotify (either song-by-song, or automatically for all identified songs).

This function closes the listening loop for users, who want more than mere song-ID service — most users want on-demand listening of songs they discover through SoundHound. Previous versions of the app included a “Play on Spotify” feature. The new feature, building a playlist from SoundHound, makes Spotify a cloud library for SoundHound favorites. The function adds a reinforcing link in the chain which takes music from broadcast sources (radio, TV), and moves it directly into online services for storage and on-demand access.

The feature mirrors similar usage in SoundHound’s main competitor, Shazam, which is joined at the hip with Rdio. (See RAIN coverage here.) An ecosystem battle is shaping up, with song-ID portals as lynchpins. The SoundHound announcement is great news for users of SoundHound, Spotify, and iPhone. (The upgraded app is not yet available on the Android platform.) The competing ecosystem favors users of Shazam, Rdio, and Android.

All the stakeholders hope to pull users across the divide. For example, Spotify subscribers who use Shazam (on iPhones) to identify music might switch to SoundHound for its hook-up with Spotify playlists. Likewise, Rdio fans might cross over from SoundHound to Shazam for the Rdio tie-in.

In the competitive shuffle, the interesting point is that music identification apps have become important portals to discovery and future listening. As a new and increasingly important form of music consumption, it directly threatens radio’s historic role.


Brad Hill