Saturday, December 1, 2012

Shazam Predicts 2013 Chart Toppers

Alex Pham/Billboard

Predicting which artists will hit the Billboard charts can be a vexing parlor game. Shazam wants to turn that game into a science, sprinkled with a little human intuition.

The London company, whose name-that-tune app is used by more than 250 million users to tag half-a-million songs each day, on Friday came out with its third annual predictions for chart toppers in 2013.

If you're the impatient type, scroll down to the bottom of the post to see the list. But if you want to know how Shazam arrives at its predictions, read on.

Shazam relied on two types of input in making its list -- tagging data and editorial judgment. Shazam executive VP of marketing David Jones was quick to point out that no "vested interests" (i.e. lobbying from artists and their representatives) had any influence.

With half-a-million tags per day, Shazam sits on a constant flow of raw data from people who have expressed enough interest in a song to make the effort to identify it. It's not the sheer volume that's taken into account, Jones said, but also the "velocity" of the tagging (how fast it's catching on).
The second element is editorial.

"The chart also reflects our belief in those artists, on the perspective of our music team," Jones said. "So it's a blend of science and art."

This simple formula has led to some success in the past. Four of its 10 predictions last year ended up doing well in 2012, including Frank Ocean, Lana Del Rey, A$AP Rocky and Michael Kiwanuka.

Shazam's tagging data is a "leading indicator," albeit not a perfect one, for songs that could later hit charts.

"If a song hits No. 1 on Shazam's New Release tag chart, it has an 80% chance of being a top 10 on a Billboard chart 33 days later," Jones said. He uses Alex Clare's single, "Too Close," as an example.

After being featured in a Microsoft commercial for Internet Explorer 9 on March 5, Shazam started to see the song climb on its tag chart. By May 1, the song hit No. 1 on Shazam's chart. On Oct. 18, "Too Close" peaked at No. 7 on Billboard's Hot 100.

"We're trying to learn how hits are born, and we're sitting on top of so much data," Jones said. "Stories like this give us insight into that question."

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