Google Takes Play Music’s Songza-Powered Playlists Abroad, First Stop UK

With catalogues of unlimited music on streaming services so extensive these days that we never quite know what to listen to first, playlists have become one of the key ways that music fans use services like Soundcloud. So to compete better against the likes of Spotify, Rdio, Deezer and the rest, as well as lure more people to pay for the Play Music streaming service, Google is now stepping up its own playlist game.

Today the company is announcing that it will start offering its “Concierge” playlists in the UK, powered by Songza, the music curation startup that Google bought earlier this year.

The playlist feature first launched in October in the U.S. and Canada, using a mixture of real-person curation from DJs, musicians, music critics and ethnomusicologists, along with some machine learning that susses out particulars like what you like and what time of the day it is (or season — holiday music is apparently very big) to present you with the most fitting selection of music.

This will be the first time that these lists are offered in an international market. As with the previous launch in the U.S., its available only to those who pay the £9.99/month fee for the Play Music and/or the YouTube Music Key beta that is bundled together with this. The service works on Android, iOS and the web, as well as offline if you select your lists in advance.

Songza, notably, was itself was a U.S.-only service when it was still independent, and that presented a new challenge for the team led by Elias Roman, the former CEO and co-founder of Songza who now works on Google’s music curation technology. He says that while there may be some playlists carried over from the U.S., there will be others created for the UK market by localized editors. One collection that apparently was a must-have was a “Wallowing in self pity” music list. (Hmmm.)

Roman says that one of the interesting things about coming to Google was that the search giant’s machine learning prowess has become an important component to how he and his team have evolved Songza’s technology.

“We didn’t think there was any other place that could take things further and faster,” he says. Neither he nor Google are sharing any numbers around how popular the service has been so far so it’s hard to tell whether Songza has given Play Music the stickiness that it so wants to have.

Before the acquisition, Songza had 5.5 million active users across its free and paid tiers.