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With Songza buy, Google recognizes music needs a human touch

James Careless | July 4, 2014
To understand why a music service like Songza is attractive to a company like Google--to the tune of $15 million to $39 million, depending on who's doing the reporting--you first have to understand something about the evolution of radio.

Apple likely agrees. After all, Beats Music's focus on music curation looks like one of the big reasons Apple decided to pay $3 billion for the music streaming service, not to mention the rest of Beats Electronics and its thriving headphone business.

The desire among music lovers for human-curated music is not lost on Songza CEO Elias Roman. "We're moving to a time when context is king, [and] when people don't have to find things," he told CNET. Translation: Listeners want music that suits their situations and moods, but they don't necessarily want to have to program it all — or discover it all — for themselves.

For anyone who has ever studied music radio's history, this comes as no surprise. After television stole radio's spoken word audiences, music gave people a reason to tune into radio again. But not just any music — radio had featured live orchestras since the 1920s — but music people wanted to hear, namely rock'n'roll and country that suited each local audience's own tastes and lifestyles.

This is the magic that Google is trying to capture by purchasing Songza. It is noteworthy that Google has publicly declared that it's planning no immediate changes to the service. In a Google+ posting, the company says it plans to look for ways to "bring what you love about Songza to Google Play Music. We'll also look for opportunities to bring their great work to the music experience on YouTube and other Google products."

So Big Internet has discovered what Big Radio willfully forgot: Humans like listening to audio programmed for them by other humans, even though it costs money to program it.


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