Today, Songza announced the close of a $1,500,000 round led by Metamorphic Ventures, Troy Carter’s Atom Factory, William Morris Endeavor, 1-800 Flowers, entrepreneur Brian Lee (co-founder of ShoeDazzle, LegalZoom and The Honest Company) former Ubisoft senior executive and former president of Jerry Bruckheimer Games Jay Cohen, NBA star Baron Davis, and Google Managing Director of US Sales John McAteer, as well as existing investors Amazon.com and 24/7 Real Media co-founder Geoff Judge. Metamorphic Ventures partner and ex-Googler David Hirsch joins Songza’s Board of Directors along with Amazon.com and Deep Fork Capital.
Songza also announced that Desiree Gruber (Executive Producer of Project Runway), Jeff Hennion (Chief Marketing Officer and EVP eCommerce of GNC), Gokul Rajaram (Product Director of Ads at Facebook), Tim Dierks (former Chief Technology Officer of Huffington Post), music industry veteran Julius Erving Jr. III and Mark Eisenberg (former EVP of Business and Legal Affairs at Sony Music Entertainment), joined Songza’s Board of Advisors. New investors and advisors will provide critical support in sourcing and evaluating growth and financial opportunities.
“Words make you think a thought. Music makes you feel a feeling. A song makes you feel a thought.” Famous songwriter E.Y. Harburg would agree that music has the power to inspire a wide range of emotions. Music can be both a form of escape and a way to brighten the mundane aspects of our day-to-day routines. But rather than thinking of the soundtrack to your daily life, shouldn’t your daily life simply determine its own theme music while you are experiencing it? That is, what if a service existed that eliminated the guesswork and the thinking, leaving you with the perfect song for any given moment based on the situation you are experiencing at that exact time?
Different situations call for different music. In an age where internet radio has become highly popular, the idea is that people should no longer have to actively find their way to good music. Instead, good music should easily find its way to people. As it turns out, investing in the music industry isn’t as taboo as many believe. A recent Forbes article, “Why We Shouldn’t Worry About the (Alleged) Decline of the Music Industry” (January 2012), discusses how the broader music industry is prospering even though the “big four” records labels have seen their revenues diminish the last ten years. Statistics indicate that the “broader music industry,” which consists of “revenues from music in radio advertising, recorded music sales, musical instrument sales, live performance revenues and portable digital music player sales” grew from $132 billion to $168 billion. Live music saw exceptional growth. From 1999 to 2009, concert ticket sales in the US tripled from $1.5 billion to $4.6 billion. This is important because it indicates that consumers are placing a strong emphasis on music as an experience; audiophiles continue to seek easy and innovative ways of experiencing new music. Moving forward, a growing share of our disposable incomes will be devoted to experiences rather than manufactured products. We are already witnessing this phenomenon: “spending on entertainment grew from 4.9 percent of household spending in 2000 to 5.6 percent in 2008” (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry).
However, in a space that is dominated by iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify, a glaring need continues to be unfulfilled in the digital music sector: all of these services demand too much active engagement from their users. Pandora, with more than 150 million users, has changed the notion of radio and digital music as we know it. However, in order for Pandora to tailor song streams to a listener’s taste, users must enter an artist’s name or song and constantly issue feedback as the music plays. The “Genius” feature in iTunes is similar, requiring users to enter a song or artist in order for the algorithm to recommend others like it. Is this truly the most effective way to discover new music? Songza is singing a different tune.
As the latest challenger to the traditional notion of free convenient internet radio, Songza is a playlist app with ready-made playlists hand-crafted by music experts for certain times of day or activities, such as getting going on Monday morning or romancing on Friday night. As Songza’s chief executive Elias Roman says, “The idea here is that we can get you to awesome music without you having to think.” Songza’s clean and easy to use interface combine with a fun and unorthodox editorial approach, resulting in over 100,000 unique playlists for any mood or occasion. The company has seen tremendous growth and retention since launching ‘music concierge’ in March 2012. In the first 10 days after releasing a dedicated iPad app in June, Songza saw more than 1,150,000 installs of their iOS apps. During the month of July, the majority of users who have ever used Songza’s mobile apps, which were first released in September 2011, were active users of the app. Since that time, two million new users have joined Songza and less than a week after going live in Canada, it became #1 iOS app in the country.
The reason we found Songza so interesting is that it is not, at its core, a music company. It is a situational targeted lifestyle company. Songza harnesses music’s inspirational nature and applies it toward enhancing the overall musical experience; it does the “thinking” for you. For example, the “epic film soundtracks” playlist is meant to help listeners plod their way through a day at the office. “If you’re at work, filling in cells in a spreadsheet, and you’re listening to the soundtrack to ‘The Last of the Mohicans,’ suddenly that changes everything,” says Peter Asbill, the chief operating officer. “It feels awesome, fun and epic.” Songza differentiates itself not by having elite features or by being more gamified. Instead, it goes back to the basics: Songza curates music that is more directly related to what you want at the time, thereby enhancing whatever you’re doing as you listen. CEO Elias Roman adds, “I think one of the revelations we had early on was we’re a lifestyle company. We care about the things you’re actually doing out there in the real world and how we can make them better. Music is such an incredibly powerful way to do that, that it’s a really phenomenal means to an end.”
Post created with Lewis Gersh by Gavin Pelling, interning with Metamorphic Ventures.