We music fans are large; we contain multitudes, to borrow from Walt Whitman.
Sometimes we want to rock out. Sometimes we want to mellow out. Sometimes we don't know what we want - we just want it to sound good.
To try to grapple with the all-too-common problem, "So what do I actually listen to right now given all my options?" Songza launched a new service on Monday morning called Concierge, which now forms the main interface for its free playlist sharing site.
When I tested it just now, Songza ascertained that it's Monday morning, closer to noon than to 6am, so it suggested a situation of "Monday Late Morning."
Then it asked what I'm doing: working or studying (with or without lyrics), taking the day off, still waking up, or just sitting around wanting to hear music from a popular genre.
When I work, I typically listen to electronic music without lyrics. It's really hard for me to write along to anything with words, especially rap. To get music like that quickly, I often cue up the Boards of Canada or Aphex Twin station on Pandora, Slacker, iHeartRadio, or any other service that lets me listen to music that's similar to a given artist. I'm not the only person in the workplace looking for music like that, either. "Music for coding" stations tend to be pretty popular on Turntable.fm, for example, and Songza was wise to reflect it here too.
I was honest with Songza - right now, I want electronic music without lyrics. It suggested all of three playlists, an another nod to Songza's new, streamlined approach to music recommendation.
I busted out Mellow Electro, a playlist with eleven other recent listeners, created by Songza itself. Songza has less than 1,300 followers on its own service, indicating that it's still ramping up, but indeed, I did enjoy Goldfrapp's "Hairy Trees," which was the first song to play, even though it has lyrics, which is exactly what I wasn't looking for. The next song, "Faking The Books" by Lali Puna, had lyrics too. So much for "no lyrics."
To be fair, no music recommendation system is ever going to be exactly perfect. Songza succeeds, to an extent, in its attempt to cut through the millions of songs out there that any of us can now listen to without paying a cent in seconds on Spotify, YouTube, or elsewhere. The admittedly-thin proof: I am still listening to the station it recommended.
From the explainer Songza sent Evolver.fm this morning:
Bringing curation to music means more than suggesting that people who like Adele might also like Duffy. It means delivering an experience that is aware of the context in which you need music. Are you jogging with your iPhone? Blasting your Kindle Fire while cooking dinner? Dreaming about vacation in front of your work PC? Songza's Music Concierge feature takes Songza's library of expertly handcrafted playlists and then effortlessly maps the right playlist to you based on the time of day, the day of the week, the device you are on, your past preferences and what you want a soundtrack for. With 10 seconds or less, no money and no need to have any particular song or artist in mind, Songza delivers the perfect music for your moment. The experience is similar to, and as easy as, walking to the front desk of a nice hotel and saying to the concierge, ‘I'm new to this city; what's fun to do around here on a Friday night?"
As you listen, Songza can send that activity to Facebook - not just the station, but each song, as it plays. It's weird, in a way, listening to programmed music using a service that shares your activity. With MOG, Spotify, or Rhapsody, you typically pick the songs you listen to, so sharing them shares a decision you made. However, with Songza and other radio services, you didn't pick the songs your friends will see that you're listening to.
With a good streaming radio service, this is a good thing, because your friends might think you're cooler or more clued-in than you really are. With a bad one, you could end up embarrassed or at least misrepresented.
So far, so good. The station recommended by Songza Concierge for my current cued up Mum's "Faraway Swimming Pool" and Matthew Robert Cooper's "Miniature 9." So in total, it played me three songs I already know and one I didn't, but all of them are fairly suitable for working on a Monday morning. The next one, "Road To Somewhere" by Goldfrapp, warranted a swift fast-forward. Hey, it happens.