Talking tech since 2003

I didn’t sleep super well last night, so today I’ve been a bit of a zombie. When it was time to sit down and write this post, I needed to get my foot tapping (and my fingers typing). How fortunate that the subject of this post, the music-streaming site Songza, had just the kind of audio stimulants I was looking for. What sets this site apart from other music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify is that instead of relying on algorithms or a la carte music selections, Songza instead provides curated, moment-specific playlists compiled by “a staff of 50 DJs, musicologists and music nerds,” as a post on Adage puts it.

When I visited Songza’s webpage, I was immediately told something I already knew: “It’s Monday afternoon.” Ugh. Heck yeah, it is. I’m tired. I’m wishing it was still the weekend. I need to make more coffee. But I have to write.

Songza already knew I was in need of a boost. It offered me five music options that ranged from “keeping calm and mellow” to “boosting your energy” to “working to a beat.” That last one felt right, so I clicked and got five more choices that narrowed my options down: did I want Indie Beats, or perhaps Head-nodding Hip Hop? I went with Modern Lounge Grooves, as I have been known to be an expert lounger.

Another three choices awaited: “From South Beach to St. Tropez,” “The World of Pretty Lights,” or “In the Euro Hotel Lounge.” I didn’t know what any of those meant, but “Euro Hotel Lounge” sounded way more interesting than “cluttered Minneapolis home office,” so I clicked that one and was immediately rewarded with exactly the kind of backbeat heavy, steady-tempoed tunes that I needed to keep going at this time of day:

To be quite honest, I was surprised at how well this worked right off the bat. I remember when I first started using Pandora, I would get annoyed at when its algorithm failed and produced a song that just didn’t match. And while Spotify had a ton of good tunes to choose from, sometimes a full album isn’t quite what I wanted. Songza seems like a great alternative for people looking to get music for a specific mood without putting in much brainpower.

According to the Adage post about the Long Island City-based company, instead of charging users for premium subscriptions or interrupting the music with advertisements, Songza instead commission’s themed playlists from advertisers who want to connect with potential customers. Samsung and Taco Bell are cited as two examples, with the former commissioning college-themed playlists to capitalize on its line of gadgets meant for productivity, while Taco Bell sponsored a playlist for moments when hunger strikes.

This is a pretty ingenious way for Songza to keep advertisers and consumers happy with the arrangement, and it fits in with the company’s mission. Songza CEO Elias Roman is quoted as saying:

“Our objective is serving users’ needs for what they are doing right now. We view ourselves as that thing that makes what you are doing better. […] We can create really fun content that no algorithm will understand.

“If you remove the branding, it needs to be something we would have done anyway.”

Based on my limited sample size, I’m pretty impressed, and I’m happy to have found a new way to bring new tunes to my ears. While I haven’t encountered a playlist that Walgreens wants me to heart when I need to pick up deodorant, I’m now strangely curious to find out what that sounds like. And if Songza catches on with music lovers, we may all know what deodorant shopping and taco eating sounds like when filtered through the mind of a DJ. I plan on downloading the Songza app for Windows and Android (there’s an iOS version as well) and finding out.

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