Back on March 5th, streaming music service Songza released a new feature on its web app called Concierge. “We found in studies that the main thing people disliked about Pandora and Spotify was having to work at discovering new music,” Elias Roman, co-founder and CEO, told me during a visit to the VentureBeat offices yesterday. “They end up listening to the same Bob Dylan playlist four times a day and it’s killing them inside.”
How do you make it drop dead simple for people discover new music? Tell them what to listen to. “We released concierge push new playlists to people, and it’s changed our metrics in a big way. New users are spending an average of 45 minutes on the site. No other new feature has given us such a big boost to traffic or engagement, which has nearly doubled since we introduced concierge.”
The new Songza concierge feature arrives on the iPhone this morning. It takes a look at everything from the day, time, and location when suggesting playlists. “If it’s a Monday morning and you are at the office, it will suggest some upbeat tracks to help you power back into the workweek,” explained Roman. “If it’s a Saturday night, depending on the time and place, it might suggest music for cooking dinner, a dance party mix or a getting lucky playlist.”
The playlists Songza recommends are generated dynamically each time based on a user’s listening history and taste, what they give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Sadly, you won’t be seeing a Songza app inside of Spotify anytime soon. “We love what those guys are doing, and in fact, we’re working on our own platform, but targeting big companies, not consumers,” said Roman.The company is already working with several large players in the terrestrial radio market, licensing out their technology to help them create a compelling digital experience.
Songza falls under the same DMCA digital radio regulations as Pandora, so it doesn’t have to worry about licensing. But unlike Pandora, the company refuses to insert audio ads into its playlists. “We just think that really ruins the experience,” said Roman. The playlists Songza recommends come from 25 music experts (rock critics, bloggers and ethno-musicologists) who work on a contract basis for the startup. Tastemakers like Kesha and Kings of Leon also create playlists.
I played with the concierge a bit and found it intuitive and fun. It picked out some epic movie music to help me conquer the end of a work day and some upbeat indie pop to make my morning coffee to. “We’re about giving the users choice. Pick a decade, a playlist for pumping iron, one for getting high,” said Roman. “But we realized that people really like it when the experience of music discovery goes from them pulling songs to us pushing them.”