Shazam starts turning profit after one billion downloads

Its recent growth wasn't just down to naming that tune...

Music discovery app Shazam has announced that it is now a profitable business, 15 years after it was established.

The UK company, which is now one of those rare "unicorns" worth over $1 billion, also revealed it has passed the one billion downloads mark. The fact that it has achieved half of those in the past two years alone highlights its strong growth.

Best known as a useful tool for telling people what tune they're listening to in an ad or on the radio, diversity has been key to Shazam's recent growing success. 

Executive chairman Andrew Fisher told the Telegraph that, while the company had actually been profitable in the past, it had gone "back into loss-making" to broaden its business and "develop a new paradigm for the advertising industry".

That means new features including image recognition which, for example, allows you to scan film posters and get links to tickets, and expanded search functions that not only give you the title of a song playing in an ad, but links to the service being plugged.

"We still provide the name of the song in the advert," Fisher said, "But then we go on to provide a richer experience. We've been able to provide immediate responses at the point of inspiration."

"As we've matured these areas of the business it has helped us get back to profitability," Fisher added. 

While the app once made most of its money by directing users to iTunes to purchase songs they heard and getting a slice of the transaction, today advertising is driving the company forward. It doesn't appear to have hurt its popularity, with 20 million people using the app on a daily basis.

Shazam now has its sights set on emerging markets in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, and is releasing a pared-back version of the app that works with slower connection speeds next week.