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Could Songza Kill Pandora and Even Spotify?

Interview: “All you have to do is tell us the activity you need a soundtrack for.” – Songza CEO

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Although Songza has been around since 2007, the Internet radio service is gaining a lot of attention of late for the tremendous growth it has been receiving. It recently became the #1 free app on iTunes for the iPad and the #2 free app for the iPhone.

What’s more, Songza integrated its mobile and Web apps with Facebook’s Open Graph last September and has witnessed remarkable growth there as well. Just recently, the Songza iPhone app has gone from 7,000 to 112,000 daily active users, which is a record high for Songza. Also, in terms of Facebook, each active Facebook-connected user generated more than 1 referral visit last month.

Elias Roman, CEO and Co-founder of Songza So, what is it that is about this music service that is garnering all this interest? Elias Roman, the company’s CEO and Co-founder, credits Songza’s success to the unique offering it provides. When he spoke to WebProNews recently, he described Songza as having “expertly curated playlists for anything you can imagine.”

The big distinction with Songza though is its “concierge” service. Through this feature, Songza is able to learn its users and, therefore, return the appropriate playlist for whatever they are doing. For example, if you are getting ready to go running and tell Songza, it will serve up an already prepared playlist specifically for that activity without any recommendations or involvement from you.

“Instead of you having to think of what music makes sense, all you have to do is tell us the activity you need a soundtrack for,” explained Roman.

“There are very few companies, at the end of the day,” he continued, “that know when you sleep and wake up and when you hang out with your family and when you’re exercising or entertaining. You tell these things to Songza, so we can make them better.”

“That allows us to offer a really valuable, really differentiated experience,” he added.

Music Platform Songza

Songza is able to do this through 2 types of curation. The first is through a team of 25 music experts ranging from critics, DJs, musicians, and more. Secondly, Songza thinks through what activities people do that they can make better with soundtracks and proceed to make playlists based on these actions.

Another unique element with Songza that also sits very well with its users is the fact that it doesn’t have audio ads.

“We always describe having audio ads in music as selling a parachute with holes in it,” said Roman.

The company does have display ads that provide a B2B platform for brands to build on and offer their own “concierge” experience, which is how Songza currently makes money. Although Roman said he couldn’t reveal the details of the company’s longer-term revenue plan, he did say that it would be the “sort of thing that makes sense when you package music as a lifestyle product [and] not just as media that you search for by artist or album or song.”

While Roman admits that it will be challenging to build a business in the midst of the high royalty rates for artists, he believes that Songza’s different revenue stream will help it handle the rates more effectively.

“That’s not to say that that’s not a huge hurdle to clear, but it’s what we knew we were getting into from day 1 of building Songza,” said Roman, “and it is something we believe we can address.”

Another barrier that Songza faces is the already crowded music space with players such as Pandora, Spotify, and iHeartRadio. Still, Roman is confident in Songza’s product. He admits that they are all competing for the same audience but is confident that their service addresses what users really want.

“We’re really trying to get to the heart of what people do every day and ways we can make it better… fitting much more into the lifestyle and lifestyle enhancement category instead of just the music category per say,” he said.

At this point, Songza is available on all iOS and Android devices and has a Web application as well. Although the “concierge” feature is not yet available for Android, Roman told us it would be very soon.

Going forward, Roman said users should expect a deeper integration with Facebook in addition to Songza being ubiquitous on “platforms that matter most,” such as Sonos and Roku devices, which opens up even more doors for the emerging music service.

Could Songza Kill Pandora and Even Spotify?


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  • Andrea

    Songza is fun and certainly perfect for the “not thinking about it” aspect of playlists. It also performs well in shorter segments. However, it can get repetitive when used as a longer “soundtrack”: an evening with friends, all-day backdrop music for relaxing, gardening, cleaning etc. We’ve heard it repeat songs quite a bit and so for those types of activities, I prefer Pandora – in fact I prefer it so much I feel like the upgrade to no ads was a no-brainer. It’s A) a pittance given it’s per year – it amounts to basically my coffee budget for a month; and B) totally worth it. I don’t see anything wrong with using both!

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