TORONTO – Cue the exit music because Songza is about to be ushered off the stage.
In the latest shakeup of the rapidly-evolving streaming music industry, Google announced Wednesday it would be shutting down Songza on Jan. 31 as it integrates the popular Concierge playlist features into Google Play Music.
The move comes nearly a year and a half after Google acquired Songza in an attempt to step up its game in the increasingly competitive streaming music industry. Once the changes take effect, users who visit Songza’s website or open its app will be pushed to Google’s service.
Songza co-founder Peter Asbill, who now works as Google’s global streaming merchandising lead, said the shift makes sense.
“Over the past year and a half we’ve worked really hard to take all of the best of Songza and bring it to Google Play Music,” he told a Toronto news conference.
“We’ve decided to focus our energy and attention on building one amazing product instead of two.”
Google Play Music — which has only been available in the past as a paid subscription service — will now expand its free version supported by advertisements to Canada, after it launched this summer in the United States.
The free service rollout puts it in line with Spotify, one of its biggest competitors. Both also offer a paid commercial-free service for $9.99 a month.
Google is looking for ways to stand out amid widespread consolidation as fellow streaming music giants purchase smaller rivals and partner with other businesses.
Last month, Rdio filed for bankruptcy and sold its technology and intellectual property to competitor Pandora for US$75 million. Rdio plans to wind down its service over the coming weeks.
Spotify has grown its number of listeners in Canada by pairing with Rogers Communications (TSX:RCI.B) to offer its subscription service as part of a wireless phone package.
Even Apple Music, one of the laggard entrants to streaming music last June, has launched an app compatible with Android phones as it reaches for an audience beyond its iPhone users.
With so many options on the market it’s surprising how few differences exist between the streaming competitors, said technology analyst Carmi Levy.
“Right now all we’re seeing are multiple variations of similar themes,” he said.
“That’s going to continue to drive consumer disinterest into 2016 until someone comes up with something that’s truly innovative.”
Spotify strives to stand out with its emphasis on social media sharing, while Apple has grabbed attention for its catalogue of huge artists like Taylor Swift. Smaller competitors like Tidal emphasize their exclusive music videos from a roster of Top 40 artists.
Google says its service — with the help of Songza — gives users the right playlist for each moment. It’s also planning to begin carrying podcasts in the coming months, a first for a streaming service in Canada.
Songza was formed in 2007 and arrived in Canada about five years later when alternate streaming music options were sparse. The company built a reputation on its Concierge feature, which offers up playlists designed for various moods and a roster of listener activities, from cooking to “breaking up.”
Concierge was so popular that it inspired other streaming music service companies to launch similar features.
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