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Google buys Songza

By | Published on Wednesday 2 July 2014


Following recent speculation that it was busy bidding for it, Google last night confirmed it had bought US-based interactive-radio style streaming service Songza. Terms of the deal are not known, though it’s thought the web giant paid somewhat more than the $15 million price tag reported by the New York Post last month (just under $40 million is being rumoured).

The deal is via the Google Play division, with Songza’s team of playlist curators a key motivation for the takeover. The playlists said team create will be incorporated into the Google Play streaming service in due course, in a bid to enhance its ‘radio’ functionality, ie the programmed element that requires less interaction on the part of the user.

As much noted, most players in the rather competitive streaming music space mainly try to distinguish themselves from their rivals by claiming that their ‘discovery’ tools for navigating the vast catalogue of tracks on offer are the very best. Both Deezer and Beats make much of their human-created playlists – as opposed to curation via usage and/or social media data – and the Songza purchase will enable Google Play to bang on about all that too.

The standalone Songza service – which is more interactive radio than fully on-demand streaming – will seemingly carry on pretty much unchanged, for the time being at least. “No immediate changes are planned”, the company said in a statement. “Other than making it faster, smarter, and even more fun to use”.

Songza and its main rival 8tracks have proven particularly popular with younger consumers, though expanding them beyond the US would require a different approach to licensing, because, like Pandora, they both currently rely on the compulsory licence that exists under US copyright law that forces labels to licence the sound recording rights via the collective licensing system at pre-set rates, all via SoundExchange.

Although the new acquisition will sit within Google Play, the web giant did say yesterday that Songza playlists might also be incorporated into YouTube somehow down the line; the Google-owned video site is also in the process of launching an audio streaming service (in case you hadn’t noticed).

Amazon had been an early investor in Songza, the etailer having acquired the download store the streaming service grew out of, Amie Street. As an existing shareholder, there had been some speculation Amazon might try and outbid Google to acquire the streaming set-up, though the company hasn’t commented on that.

Either way, the Google deal will result in a pay-day for Amazon, and Songza’s other investors. Which include Bieber manager Scooter Braun and one-time Gaga guider Troy Carter, which is a relief, thank God those guys are getting a bit cash at last.