Google Is Buying Songza, A Music Streaming Startup

Google just acquired Songza, the music streaming company for an undisclosed amount.

Previous reports pegged the deal at $US15 million.

Google plans to incorporate Songza’s playlists into its Google Play Music All Access subscription service.

This is a strategic move for Google, as it continues to trail behind companies like Spotify, Apple, and Pandora when it comes to music curation.

There is an interesting reason why Google is behind in this race: Music doesn’t respond to search algorithms — Google’s key strength — the way simpler media like words or images do. It’s easy to program software so that it recognises matching words or strings of text. It’s magnitudes harder to program software that can “listen” to audio, code it correctly with the right attributes, and then make those attributes discoverable either in a search or as a stream of similar songs — as Pandora does.

The Music Genome Project, which is the back-end of Pandora, represents over 10 years of music analysis. Collecting the data for a single song can take 20 minutes. A decade. That’s how far behind Google is, in theory, in terms of music streaming — and why it will pounce on Songza if it gets the right price.

Google already has a few streaming music products, like its Google Play store, Google Play Music All Access premium-subscription service, and of course, YouTube. But all of those offerings lack strong curation. Meanwhile, Google is also reportedly working on a Spotify-like music offering, powered by YouTube. Buying Songza could help beef up Google’s music offerings overall.

Songza only has 5.5 million monthly active listeners, while Spotify has over 40 million monthly active listeners. Those figures demonstrate that Google wants Songza for its curation, rather than for its listeners.

Apple recently acquired streaming music service Beats Music in a deal worth $US3 billion. When news of the deal broke, Apple executives noted that the strength of Beats Music’s curation played a role in the decision to buy the company.

In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook said that Beats Music is the first streaming music app “to get it right.”

Songza is relatively similar to Beats Music in that it plays music for you based on your mood, location, who you’re with, and what kind of music you feel like listening to. This morning, Songza suggested playing music for “The rainy weather,” “waking up happy,” and “singing in the shower.”

Here’s the full blog post from Songza:

You know why we love building Songza? Because you trust us to make every moment of your day better — and that’s a pretty huge honour. Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we’re becoming part of Google. We can’t think of a better company to join in our quest to provide the perfect soundtrack for everything you do. No immediate changes to Songza are planned, other than making it faster, smarter, and even more fun to use.

In the meantime, we’ll be walking on sunshine.

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