Forget Spotify and Apple Music – here comes Shiri!
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Forget Spotify and Apple Music – here comes Shiri!

The National Library of Israel enters the music business with a new app for Israeli songs

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

The screens of Shiri, the National Library of Israel's new music app with 400,000 songs by 1,500 Israeli artists. (Courtesy, Shiri)
The screens of Shiri, the National Library of Israel's new music app with 400,000 songs by 1,500 Israeli artists. (Courtesy, Shiri)

Move over Spotify and Apple Music, now there’s Shiri, the new music app from an unexpected source — The National Library of Israel.

With 40,000 songs by Israeli singers, ranging from the most popular to lesser-known musicians, the app saw more than 43,000 downloads in its first few days of existence, and is currently at 85,000 downloads. It ranked first among the free applications in Apple’s App Store, and was number one in the Google Play Store by the end of the second day it was available.

“That kind of popularity was completely unexpected,” said Yaron Deutscher, head of digital access at the National Library, who spearheaded the project for the library.

The idea for Shiri came from a group of Israeli artists and musicians, led by Ariel Horovitz, an Israeli singer-songwriter who followed in the footsteps of his late mother, the renowned vocalist, Naomi Shemer.

Horovitz had an idea for a digitized radio system that would allow listeners to select any Israeli song of their choosing, and also provide valuable exposure for young Israeli musicians, who have a harder time accessing radio bandwidth.

Musician Ariel Horovitz, son of the late Naomi Shemer, initiated Shiri, the new music app created out the National Library of Israel’s extensive music collection. (Courtesy Ariel Horowitz)

At the same time, the National Library, currently undergoing a massive construction project, is home to the world’s largest collection of Israeli music and was looking for creative ways to expose its collections.

“Unfortunately, very few people were actually accessing the collection,” said Deutscher.

Horovitz and a group of musicians partnered with the library. They were sponsored by the Culture and Sports Ministry, along with funding from the Legacy Heritage Fund and the Bella and Harry Wexner Libraries of Sound and Song.

The group of musicians worked on a volunteer basis, said Deutscher, “just to help Israeli musicians, and that’s unusual.”

Once the app became available, the downloads began, along with more than 1,000 comments.

“It’s beyond our wildest dreams, and with absolutely no advertising at first,” said Deutscher. “It answers a need. People really want to connect to Israeli music without the mediation of a radio editor. YouTube is great, but it has advertising, Spotify is the best, but it costs money and their Israeli music collection is small. Apple Music isn’t even in the same playing field in terms of its Israeli music collection.”

The listeners have ranged from near and far, including Madagascar, South Africa, Thailand and China, because “Israelis are everywhere,” said Deutscher.

With 40,000 songs from 1,500 artists currently on the app, there are plans to upload more, as well as to develop additional features that the library wants to include.

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