Earlier this year, Google was rumoured to be sniffing around streaming music service Songza as a potential acquisition. Yesterday, it went ahead and bought the US company in a deal reported by the New York Times to be worth more than $39m.
“We aren’t planning any immediate changes to Songza, so it will continue to work like usual for existing users. Over the coming months, we’ll explore ways to bring what you love about Songza to Google Play Music,” explained Google in a blog post. “We’ll also look for opportunities to bring their great work to the music experience on YouTube and other Google products.”
It’s an exit for a service that’s considerably older than the 2011 launch cited in some reports yesterday. The original Songza launched in 2007 as a music search engine that let people search for music and create playlists – it was a rival to Seeqpod, for readers with long memories.
In late 2008 it was bought by digital music store AmieStreet before relaunching in 2010 as a social radio service for people to create stations for their friends to play – a service that remained independent when Amazon acquired AmieStreet later that year.
What rocketed Songza to prominence was its launch of a feature called Music Concierge in 2012, serving up playlists based on the time of day/week as well as what the listener was doing at the time. It was an early stab at the kind of contextual playlists that two years on are a common sight on other streaming services.
By September that year, Songza had 2m active users, with 75% of its usage mobile. It has since pushed on, with a $4.7m funding round in September 2013; the launch of a $0.99 weekly subscription tier that July removing ads and doubling the number of times users could skip a track. By the end of 2013, Songza had 5.5m active users. And now Google.
At $39m, Songza represents a small investment for a company with Google’s resources, but a potentially important one for the development of its digital music services. The company already has a team of curators working under the Google Play banner, but more contextual playlists will help its All Access service compete against Spotify, Beats Music and other rivals.
The deal is also a reminder that we’re in a humans+algorithms world when it comes to music discovery: the days of debating one versus the other are fast receding, as it’s the combination that’s most powerful.
Finally, that mention of YouTube in Google’s post is interesting: is this a sign of more joined-up thinking between the music strategies of the Google Play and YouTube teams within Google?