Songza

Songza ‘Casts onto TV

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 3:10pm

Songza updated its iOS and Android apps today, adding Chromecast capability. Google Chromecast is a thumb-sized WiFi device that plugs into a digital television’s HDMI port. when activated, Chromecast streams content from partner providers, or from anything playing on Google’s chrome browser.

The little Chromecast device has made big noise as a cheap ($35) WiFi enabler for TV sets, competing directly with Roku and Apple TV.

Songza joins Pandora among Chromecast-enabled music services, as well as Netflix and Hulu among video sites. Distributing music service to the TV might not seem intuitive, but it covers situations in which a TV room does not have any other audio system in it.

Also in Songza’s press release is an announcement of new Christmas playlists -- 75 of them, from “Classic Christmas” to “Mad Men Christmas” (the latter for when drinking many glasses of eggnog, we presume).

Songza updates features and adds Songkick partnership

Friday, November 15, 2013 - 12:05pm

Streaming music service Songza updated its personalization features in a new iOS app which dropped into the Apple app store this week. Users can now see a list of their thumbs-up song votes, and play them as a playlist.

That might not seem like a big deal, but it is for Songza addicts. The update notes indicate that this feature was much requested, which is understandable. Songza does have a star system for marking favorites, but it applies to songza “concierge” playlists, not tracks. Most services that use thumb-up and thumb-down votes use those indicators to personalize the song recommendations over time, so the platform gets smarter about your taste. Songza does that, too … but now also gives the user a collection of favorite songs for on-demand playing.

On another note, Songza has reportedly inked a partnership with Songkick, the tour-info service. Songkick recently built a concert scheduling app for the Spotify system, and is making inroads to furnish live-concert info that enhances Internet radio listening.

Streaming continues to erode “album release” concept

Friday, November 15, 2013 - 12:05pm

We noticed the new Hunger Games soundtrack album as a streaming playlist in iTunes Radio, which supported our repeated observation that “album release” no longer has much meaning.

In the years when radio was the only mass-market music discovery venue, and the only hitmaker, pre-release singles effectively promoted albums, sometimes weeks before album availability. Streaming puts a new slant on album promotion. We noted that in the cases of Justin Timberlake and Eminem, iTunes Radio streaming previews effectively released the albums in a viable listening format before the CD and album download were available. In both cases, those albums shot to the top spot in Apple’s iTunes album-sales chart. More correlation (Billboard) of the strategy’s effectiveness lies in the fact that the Timberlake product headlined the best album sales week of the year, and Eminem’s spearheaded the second-best week.

Coincidentally, as we were listening to a Songza playlist, a track from the Hunger Games album popped in. That opened our eyes to the fact that the iTunes Radio promo is not an exclusive deal. And Rolling Stone notes that some of the artists included in the album compilation have (pre)-released tracks or snippets. It’s natural that a multi-artist album would demonstrate a more ragged introduction than one band with verticalized management. But the overall point is that Internet radio, plus other leakage points, make album release dates increasingly meaningless lines in the sand when the tide is rolling in. (We love a good metaphor.) 

At this writing, the Hunger Games album is perched at the top of the iTunes pre-order chart, and is placed at #22 in the total album-sales list. The album’s formal release date (which, again, is becoming more a marketing slogan than an actual availability milestone) is next Tuesday.

iHeart Radio updates app features, including concierge-style programming

Sunday, November 3, 2013 - 11:35am

We noticed that iHeartRadio put an updated version of its Android app in the Google Play, and were glad to see it brought the Android experience to parity with the Apple app. Trying it out, we see two notable additions.

Unadvertised in the app stores, but added in both the Android and iOS apps, is the “Perfect for” section, which adopts concierge-style programming currently in vogue. Pioneered by Songza’s “life moments” organization of playlists, and later more-or-less copied by Slacker, concierge-style presentation makes it easy for the listener to lean forward briefly, identify a mood, activity, or time of day, then lean back for the curated music experience.

Clearly, iHeart programmers had the RAIN editorial office in mind when packaging this section, as the first choice is Drinking Coffee. Drilling into that selection amusingly yields layers of musical caffeination: Shot of Caffeine, Extra Sugar, Third Cup Jitters, and Espresso Energy. Each is a package of stations. The selections feature a mix of live stations and curated playlists. (One of the streams is co-branded with Dunkin Donuts.) Other “Perfect for” categories are likewise expanded with a tongue-in-cheek wink (e.g. Downward Dog Days in the Yoga group).

iHeart is bragging about another new usability feature: a big plus sign (+) that offers one-touch addition of any programming element onto your Favorites page. That’s good, but not prevalent enough. In our testing, we saw the plus sign only on the Now Playing screen. We found that limitation frustrating when combing through the service adding stations; many times we wanted to fling a station into Favorites for later, without having to boot it up first. Especially when listening to one of the Espresso Energy stations.

Weekend Perspective: Week Oct. 21-25

Friday, October 25, 2013 - 5:10pm

RAIN’s Weekend Perspective summarizes the week’s important events for a weekend catch-up, and revives your blasted synapses for coming week.

 

PARTNERSHIPS

Clear Channel and Black River: The radio group added to its growing portfolio of partnerships with record labels. Details not disclosed, but this one likely follows the template of Clear Channels agreement with Warner Music Group: higher broadcast royalties, lower streaming royalties, artist promotions on radio. [READ]

MUSIC SERVICES & APPS 

iTunes Radio reaches 20M listeners: And media outlets indulge in fuzzy math by comparing iTunes Radio and Pandora audience metrics, which use different standards. [READ

YouTube music service: YouTube is the gorilla in the room when it comes to music services. Not formally set up for music, the platform is nonetheless rampantly used for music search and playback, especially by young listeners. RAIN analyzes whether YouTube would compete with itself by formalizing a music service. [READ]

Sirius XM disappoints subscribers: Unexpectedly and without explanation, Sirius XM dropped several popular Clear Channel stations. The satellite company’s Facebook page swarmed with malcontent. [READ]

...and raises their rates: In its quarterly call to Wall Street investors, Sirius XM (SIRI) showed off steep gains in revenue and subscriptions from a year ago, but also lowered guidance for 2014 and raised rates on subscribers. [READ]

Twitter #Music nearing the end: Not official, but reports have us believe that Twitter’s music no-quite-service, underdeveloped but sometimes fun, and only six months old, will be shelved. [READ]

Microsoft plays the Web: Xbox Music was updated, and one new feature struck us as unique and potentially disruptive: a way of building a playlist from any web site that mentions artists and bands. [READ]

Rhapsody courts CD buyers: The music service gives one-month free subs to CD buyers at Best Buy. It’s an interesting play for consumers who might not be converted from ownership to access. [READ]

Songza updates: The Songza app is prettified for iOS 7. [READ]

“This American Life” goes endless: The public radio program, hosted by Ira Glass, has an 18-year archive of shows. A new TuneIn stream plays them continuously, with zero interactivity, for total saturation. [READ]

British music service sailing for U.S.: That would be Pure Connect, which works seamlessly with Pure WiFi devices. [READ]

ILLUMINATION 

Jim Lucchese: The CEO of The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company, describes how it powers many of the features used by millions of people across hundreds of music services. [READ Part 1] [READ Part 2]

DASH conference: A two-day conference in Detroit scrutinized every aspect of the connected-car movement, from the viewpoint of radio, solution providers, automakers, aftermarket companies, car dealers, and disc jockeys. RAIN was there. [DASH Day 1] [DASH Day 2]

OUTBURSTS 

Dave Allen vs. David Byrne: It’s a blog-debate. Settle in -- each of these gentlemen is voluble on the subject of Spotify. [READ]

 

Songza updates iOS 7 app

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 - 9:15am

The release of Apple’s iOS 7 mobile operating system, with its dramatic design changes, has generated an influx of app re-releases of a new “iOS 7 update” category. In other words, little or no functional changes, but the app is prettied up to make the most of iOS 7 translucencies and other cosmetic loveliness.

Such is Songza’s upgrade, which landed in the Apple app store this week. Songza’s Concierge service (mood/activity “life moments” listening) remains unchanged, as do its finely curated genre stations. The only discernible change to our eyes is the Now Playing screen, in which the share buttons are more obvious (good for Songza brand extension) and more easily accessed (good for users who love sharing). The design is quite beautiful on an iPhone, not so striking in the iPad app.

In the iOS 7-upgrade race, Songza has now caught up with Slacker -- worth mentioning because the two seem locked in an orbital dance. Slacker recently copied Songza’s day/mood/activity listening model with the My Vibe section of its app, which it launched with iOS 7 beautification. That maneuver definitely comprised an eat-your-lunch aggression toward Songza. (See RAIN coverage here.) In our humble opinion, Slacker still looks better, and has more streamlined navigation.

For listeners, though, the main test is quality of music. All these mobile platform apps have the same essential design elements. Does the playlist work for you? That’s what counts.

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