Songza Is Dead, But It Lives On Within Google Play Music
The end is nigh for Songza, but the free, curated playlist service will live on in the form of “Listen Now” playlists on Google Play Music.
The popular music service will stream its last workout playlist, commute soundtrack and set of BBQ jams on January 31, which was Google’s plan from the moment it bought the company more than a year ago. But its legacy endures. Songza co-founders Elias Roman and Elliott Breece—now project managers at Google Play Music—say they’ve been infusing Google Play Music with handpicked mixes. Whereas Songza was available only in the US and Canada, Roman and Breece say its thematic playlists are streamable in 13 countries. So while Songza’s going away, Roman and Breece say the service’s mission is stronger and further-reaching than ever.
“In June, we launched the free tier of Google Play Music,” Roman says. “(Today), in Canada, we’re launching a free tier as well. That gives us, in the two countries that Songza operates in, all the features we love about Songza in Google Play Music … Once we had the parity on those two levels, the Songza team decided that it was a really good time to focus on one product. We can move more quickly, we can be more focused on advancing our mission through one vehicle.”
Roman and Breece say their team has taken great care to ensure Songza users have a seamless transition between services. Starting today, Songza users will be able to port their saved favorite songs and stations and recent playlists to Google Play Music. That’ll be the case through the end of January 2016, when Songza shuts down for good.
Songza has been around since 2007, but its raison d’etre is the hot new trend in an increasingly competitive streaming-music landscape. Curation is big, and everyone from Apple Music to Spotify to Amazon has added hand-picked playlists by DJs and music experts. The thematic playlists that Songza has long offered—mixes for the beach, for the gym, for all-night coding sessions—are all part of the major services, too.
That’s ultimately what put Songza in the position to be bought, and it points to a growing trend of consolidation in streaming music. With Apple, Google, Amazon, Spotify, and Pandora representing the 800-pound gorillas in the room, is there any hope of a smaller upstart having a seat at the table? Rdio and Grooveshark shut down in the past year, and Beats Music was absorbed by Apple.
“Certainly the biggest ecosystem providers have the best opportunity to gain market share, and it’s hard to think they won’t have at least some success if not fully take over the majority of market share over the coming years,” says Gartner research director Brian Blau. “We may not see many more startups come in and rise stratospherically, but look at what happened last week with Adele and her new release. (It) apparently broke sales records yet the music wasn’t available in any of the streaming services.”
So for a smaller startup, the ultimate goal probably is acquisition by a streaming giant—or offering something radically different—rather than competing directly. Roman says gaps remain when it comes to discovering and organizing music. Smaller services can help fill them.
“What’s critical for any small player is that you can’t be just like some big service but incrementally better,” Roman says. “That’s a really bad strategy. And I think the opportunity for small services is to take some unmet need and kill it. You need to focus on the one problem you want to solve. Curation is definitely having a moment, but curation is a means to an end. The value that we have in our users’ lives is making the things they do everyday better. This isn’t going to be a one-horse race. There’s not just going to be one service. I still think there’s room for scrappy startups to find some unmet need and do a really good job at it.”
For their part, Roman and Breece don’t consider Songza’s disappearance bittersweet. They say being part of Google Play Music ultimately will help them reach goals they set out to accomplish in the first place.
“When you think of the future of music … it’s less about people searching and browsing, and more about content finding people in the right context,” Breece says. “I’m personally excited to be able to focus on one product. The good news is that we’re focusing on the same mission … The good news is that now, we’re doing it with more resources.”
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