by Bil Kanawati
Songza, one of Canada’s most beloved streaming music services, is shutting down on January 31st, 2016. That’s the bad news. The good news is that its best aspects - namely, its curated playlists based on genre, mood, activity, and time of day - are available as part of Google Play Music, Google’s answer to streaming competitors Spotify and Apple Music. including the bulk of Songza’s features as part of a free, ad-supported tier of its service, which has been the case in the US since June but was made available for the first time in Canada as of December 2nd, eliminating the need for the standalone Songza app.
Boasting three million monthly users, Songza was more popular in Canada than anywhere else in the world. To put that number in perspective, the US with nine times the population also had a user base of three million. The service was so successful in Canada that Songza opened a domestic office and hired Canadian radio icon Alan Cross as the Head of Curation for Songza Canada.
Not long after Google purchased Songza in July of 2014, the Canadian office was shuttered, leaving the playlists like “Hockey Night with Mayor Rob Ford” and “A Road Trip Through Canada” (with selections taken straight from Burton Cummings’ iPod) to an uncertain fate. Now we know that these playlists will live on - in fact, thanks to the Google transition these themed playlists are now available in 13 countries.
Canada’s importance to Songza and Google was underscored by Chris Welch, reporting in The Verge that "expanding Play Music's free experience to Canada was one crucial thing that needed to happen before Songza could go away."
The highly competitive streaming music landscape is primed for consolidation. With Songza being folded into Google Play Music, Beats Music being wholly subsumed into Apple Music, and the bankruptcy of Rdio (which cited Canada as its second-biggest market), and YouTube Red (another ad-free subscription service) poised to enter Canada sometime in 2016, things are only going to get more interesting.