Music App Songza Latest to Target Classical Listeners

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As the market for online services that stream music from computers and mobile devices expands, classical music listeners remain at least partly in companies' crosshairs.

Songza, an Internet radio service that creates playlists according to your mood, launched an iPad app earlier this month following success with its iPhone and web apps. It shot past market leader Pandora as the most popular free music app for Apple devices the week of June 10. Because it doesn’t contain audio ads, it has a potential leg up on Pandora, which charges $36 annually to avoid audio ads on its mobile apps. Slacker Inc., another online radio service, charges $4 a month to remove audio ads.

Also adding to the competition is the streaming service Spotify, which last Monday made its online radio service available as an app.

Songza offers free mood-and-situation based playlists in a range of genres, all created by programmers in their Long Island City, NY headquarters. These include 34 different playlists built around various classical music themes. Some focus on the major composers: Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Brahms and Stravinsky. Others are oriented towards neophytes and casual fans (“Welcome to Classical,” “Essential Classical”). Still others are tailored to specific lifestyle activities (“Classics for Studying,” “Classical Meditation,” “Classical for Sleeping”) and a handful are aimed at devotees (including an avant-garde channel).

A test drive of Songza revealed clear, uninterrupted audio but also some limitations that may bother a serious classical listener: data about artists, orchestras or conductors played was hit-or-miss. The service plays just one movement at a time, before moving on to something else. Additionally, by clicking on the “Music Concierge” function we were offered selections for “relaxing at home,” and “doing housework,” but these were focused on pop hits. 

Still, by offering up playlists around lifestyle themes like “unwinding after a long day,” ‘’working out,” and “eating dinner,” Songza has cornered a niche, and could eventually use such clues to appeal to advertisers. They will need the support. Online radio services have skyrocketed in popularity but that growth has vied with their ability to sell ads. All of these serves are struggling to survive in a business saddled with high royalty rates for artists. Songza, which was downloaded 1.15 million times in the 10 days since June 7, faces similar challenges.

For now, it’s still Pandora’s game to lose. According to comScore Inc., Pandora’s website alone racked up 1.2 billion listener hours in May, compared to 2 million for Songza.

With the Associated Press