Songza, I’m Gonna Miss You
I hate to be the one to tell you, but if you don’t use Songza — and at only 6 million users, chances are you don’t — I have two pieces of bad news: first, you’ve been missing out on a great streaming music service, and second, now that you’re learning how wonderful it is, it’s going away.
For those of you, again, who haven’t been fortunate enough to hang out with Songza, the best way to describe it is as the fun streaming music service. It’s been around since ’07, and though it has never become as popular as the two giants, Pandora and Spotify, it has always offered something neither of those can, a human touch. Songza’s playlists are curated by actual, flesh-bound people, which allows them to create collections centered around ideas that might be difficult to quantify. Sure, they have the genre and period-based stuff that every service does, but then they have layers of groupings based on moods (sometimes in compounds, like “Feeling Like the Boss” instead of just “Happy Songs”), activities (including oddly specific ones, like “Canoe Camping in Canada”), and even time of day, which are then further divided based on the kind or kinds (they’re often admixtures of multiple genres) of music you want to listen to at the moment. You can, for example, listen to specific categories of nostalgic favorites (“80’s Sing-a-Longs”) or learn about a genre you don’t know well (“Country-Rock Crash Course”).
A few years ago they added another layer of groupings, which they call the “Concierge Service” that uses listening data to organize the curated playlists into high-level activities (e.g., “Driving,” “Having Fun at Work,” or my favorite, “Entering Beast Mode”), points in your day (“Waking Up,” “Winding Down”), or even lifestyle (e.g., “College Life”). There are also multiple single and multi-genre new music playlists that are frequently updated, often with fresh-out-of-the-dive-bar artists along with the new music just released by artists you know well. It’s this feature in particular that made it so valuable. Sure, I sometimes enjoy being surprised by a playlist that will throw in disco, contemporary EDM, and 90s alt rock at me, but the reason I listen to Songza almost every day, often for hours at a time, is to learn about new music. About half of the new music I’ve heard in the last couple years, I’ve heard first on Songza. There is no simpler or more thorough way to keep up to date.
Google purchased Songza in the summer of 2014 for what was, compared to the value of other streaming media services, a ridiculously low price. For whatever reason, Songza just hadn’t caught on in the streaming media world. Perhaps it’s a bit too convoluted for someone who just wants to listen to artists who sound like Adele, or a 90s alternative rock playlist. That’s there, but you have to go through a few layers to get to it, whereas on Pandora you just type in “90s alt rock” and a few seconds later you’re listening to Toad the Wet Sprocket. Songza did more than those services, but required a few more seconds of commitment to get you there. So it was out there for what was, for Google, chump change. At the time, I think most Songza fans thought this might mean longevity, but Google began expanding and promoting their own streaming service, Google Play Music, and the writing was on the wall.
Earlier this month we got the terrible news: just as they had yanked Google Reader out of our hands after making it so integral to our internet lives, they were going to do the same with the streaming service so integral to our listening lives. As of the end of next month, Songza will be no more. Officially they’re integrating it with Play Music, but to date there is little indication that Play Music will be as fun or as informative as Songza has been. Those of us who’ve come to love the little service have therefore entered the five stages of grief.
Here then are songs for each stage, all of which I first heard on one of the Songza new music playlists. Enjoy.
So long, Songza. So long.
Image credit: My phone.