Google Play Music adds 'activity and moods' playlists

By James Cridland for
Posted 17 December 2014, 7.19am est

One criticism of streaming services, like Spotify, Rdio and Google Play Music, is that they don't offer much in terms of connection and reflecting peoples' habits. Radio, it's argued, is the place for that.

If it's a sunny day, and it fits station format, you're likely to hear The Beatles' Good Day Sunshine, or ELO's Mr Blue Sky, slipped into the playlist. Listeners to the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2 will hear mostly up-tempo, high energy songs designed to get you out of bed and off to work; while nights on many radio stations have ballads and softer music, made to relax you.

Spotify, Google Play and others can't compete with that: can they?

Earlier this year, Google bought Songza, a service which produced 'activity and mood-based' humanly curated playlists. After a rollout of some of this functionality in the US last month, listeners in the UK will now find a set of activity-based 'radio' stations in their app and online.

"It's Wednesday morning," says the app. "Play music for... Christmas, Having Fun At Work, Taking It Easy, Enjoying the morning"... accompanied by some Googlesque images. "Having fun at work" is a set of three playlists - Good Vibe Rap, Office 80s and One-Hit Wonders, and were you to click the "Office 80s" playlist you'd find it's full of up-tempo tracks, whether Dexys Midnight Runners, the Beautiful South, Queen, Bruce Springsteen, and more unashamed feel-good songs.

Many say this is why music-intensive radio ("ten great songs in a row") needs to work hard if it is to maintain its place in our lives. If a listener can get a better mix that matches her mood or what she's doing - and, importantly, a mix that includes a skip button - then music-intensive radio has less of a purpose.

Have you tried Google Play Music's new service? Or were you a user of Songza? Let us know in the comments.

James Cridland — James runs, and is a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business. He also publishes a free daily newsletter about podcasting, Podnews, and a weekly radio trends newsletter.

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