Originally, the article was going to include a sub-title: “Why don’t you have Songza yet?”, because, really, why don’t you have Songza yet?
During a conversation in Episode 62, Matt Walstead mentioned that he was using Songza (www.songza.com) as one of his recent primary streaming services, and based on his description, I decided to investigate.
I had mentioned Songza on the show before, from a news story long past (most likely a launch story, or something of the like), but I had never played around with the iPhone app or the web site.
It’s AMAZING. It’s what a song discovery service SHOULD be. It’s the contextualizing of music into the rest of your life, based on “Playlists by Music Experts”, as the site claims, and, honestly, they are not giving the playlist generators enough credit.
For example, there are SEVEN different ways you access these playlists, including lists based on Genre, Activities, Moods, Decades, and Culture. After messing around with this app, I’ve determined my favorite playlist group is aptly named Record-Store Clerk, as its suggestions of playlist sub-groups include “Dance Music That’s Not Assaultive”, “Indie Music That’s Not Too Weird”, “Mustache Music (Or: Cool In The ’70s)”, and “This Will Piss Your Parents Off”. It really is that organization of music that you expect to find in the hipper realms of metropolitan areas, in the mostly deserted record shop where the staff knows exactly what you’re looking for, based on the two notes stuck in your head.
ON TOP OF THAT, there’s MORE. I know what you’re thinking: “But Dan, there are TOO many features already. This is too good to be true.” And you would be wrong, generic infomercial seeded audience member. For there’s the Concierge service. Based on time of day, with a dash of societal paradigms, the Concierge service will suggest genres FOR you. For example, I am writing this on a Friday night, and the Concierge is offering me the following options: “Bedtime”, “A Sweaty Dance Party”, “Pre-Gaming with Friends”, “Putting on Your Party Dress”, “Creating a Cool Atmosphere”, and “Unwinding”. Seeing as I already have my Party Dress on, in a manner of speaking, I went with the Cool Atmosphere one, and, as a result, it is narrowing down the tunes I should listen to into ANOTHER six categories, this time based on genre.
I spent the work day today bombing through the multitudes of dubstep available, to give it an honest chance, and I was really impressed by the volumes of music available in these playlists. But that’s the catch that I’ve mentioned a number of times: it’s a pre-set collection of playlists. You don’t experience the flexibility of Pandora’s lists, or the “control EXACTLY what you want to hear” of Spotify, but when used properly, it fits comfortably into most situations.
Like most streaming music sites these days, there is a social media aspect included, where everyone on Facebook knows you’re listening to the “Cry Yourself to Sleep” playlist, unless you disable the feature. It isn’t as invasive as Spotify’s “POST EVERY TRACK” setting, but it’s also not a feature I’d actively seek out.
There are also a few extra clock-related features, where you can set a specific playlist to start playing as an alarm at a certain time, and the ability to play music while displaying the app’s built in clock, but they aren’t anything to write home about. I imagine you could go through the Concierge service (which you can also set different days of the weeks, and times of day, kind of like looking at future traffic on Google Maps) and set certain appropriate playlists to pop up when you expect to be commuting to work, or doing housework, or what have you.
Right. So it’s great, right? Now let’s get down to brass tack. It’s available for iPhone, Android, Kindle, and computers for free (with clickable, but not audible, ads). So far, I’ve played with the iPhone app and the web site, and the user interface is nice. Not too complicated to navigate; not to noisy to sift through. “Nice” is really the most appropriate word for it. It also has the Pandora “You’ve Skipped Too Many Tracks For Now, But If You Switch Over To Another Playlist, You Can Keep Skipping” license restrictions, but with the number of playlists available, this shouldn’t hold you back.
I don’t think it’ll replace my iCloud use, or the occasional Spotify use, but I do think this may replace Pandora in my eyes, at least until I exhaust the playlists I am actually interested in hearing. I say it’s worth checking out to see how well the Concierge matches your moods, and to laugh at some of the playlists and categories. It’s not like it’ll cost you anything. I’m with the folks on the Apple App Store: 5 Stars for this one.