Music Discovery in the Age of Shazam!

It used to be that I heard a song on the radio, or in a cafeteria, or in the soundtrack of of a movie and I would have to file it away for years until, serendipitously, I would discover the origin. This was before Google (or B.G.). Life was different back then.

I had hundreds of songs filed away in my head. You couldn’t just walk around humming the tune to everyone you met, on the off chance that they could identify it. The tune was was killing you, eating you alive. And gradually, you would forget parts of it. Then all of it. It was such a good song, but you would never find out what it was.

You couldn’t just hum it to everyone you met. I mean, you could– but good luck keeping or making friends:

Me: I remember a few words. It goes like ta-daa ta-ra-raa so much, tu-ru-ru in the la-di-da.
Person: Do I know you?
Me: Ok. Maybe you know this one. It goes tu-du-doo, I’m a ta-li-daa.
Person: Sir, step away from my ear.

And so on.

I used to go on multi-decade searches for songs that really caught hold of my attention. Then, the world changed.

Now, I hear a song on the radio and I can immediately go to the radio station’s web site and see what’s playing. Or if I can’t get to the internet, I just remember the radio station and time of day and look it up later.

Or if it’s on a radio station that doesn’t have an archive, or if it’s playing in a coffee shop, or (more likely) if I’m impatient, I can just hold the-greatest-app-in-the-history-of-mankind Shazam up to the speaker. And Shazam will tell me the name and artist. Even works for obscure Hindi songs. Just the other day, I discovered “Sarki Chunariya re Zara Zara” by Himesh Reshammiya and filed it away in my head as a song I never want to buy.

Or if I just remember a snippet of a tune, I can hum it to Midomi. And Midomi will (some times) tell me the song. Or I can google the lyrics. Or if it’s playing in a movie, I just go to IMDb’s soundtrack listings.

After that, it’s a short trip to lala.com to listen to the whole song and, if I want, an even shorter one to eMusic or iTunes to buy it. The path from discovery to contentment has never been quicker or more pleasurable.

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