For years, I was a staunch Pandora user. Though I’d still purchase albums from iTunes or Amazon, I’d listen to Pandora at work. When Spotify finally landed on U.S. shores, I tried it out for awhile, even paying for a subscription for a short period. While it has certain benefits, it still didn’t appeal to me for what I find myself most often using music for currently: working.
As an editor and writer, I spend an inordinate amount of time in front of a computer screen either writing words or attempting to fix others’ words. Whether at home or at my office, I tend to drown in the written word. I love it, but I need a lifeline back to the surface of the real world. That lifeline is instrumental, lyric-less music. It keeps me productive and in a much better mood should I stumble across yet another misuse of “your” or “you’re.”
I don’t remember how I stumbled across Songza. My guess is social media, the way most of us online stumble across just about anything. I first used Songza through their web-based service and instantly fell in love with their take on streaming music. With a free, ad-supported iPhone and iPad app that integrates nicely with their free online service, I was sold.
Here are the major features of Songza, a free download in the app store.
Upon launching the app, you’re presented with listening options based on the time of day, and, if I had to guess, your past listening history if you’re already signed into the service. They call this their Concierge service, which is why they use a bell as the logo in the top left corner to access this screen.
As you can tell, Songza believes I’d most like to work without lyrics. They’re right.
You’re also notice some quirky genre selections, like “Starring in a Rom Com.” Reminiscent of Netflix’s scarily prescient genre choices based on my past viewings, I appreciate such personalization, even if it scares me how much the Internet likely already knows about me. Then again, I don’t listen to rom-com soundtracks.
Even if I did, I wouldn’t cop to it online.
After tapping Working (No Lyrics), I’m presented with further selections to narrow down what kind of music I’d like to work to. I’m a fan of most of these genres. I’ll pick Ambient for now. Speaking of ambient, I’m a fan of Songza 3.0’s colorful redesign. The gradients used in the design bring calm into my life as much as the mellow music I’m about to listen to does.
Also, if you ever need inspiration for completing a task, listen to the Blockbuster Film Scores playlist. It makes everything you type feel epic. (Be warned: reading such copy in silence after the fact may in fact make it less epic. However, I’m sure Songza has a playlist for Depressed Hack Writer as well. If not, well, let’s create one).
I’ve favorited the Ambient Music for Reading playlist, curated by the Songza staff themselves. Any user can create and share their own playlists, but Songza’s smart in presenting you with playlists created by their own team, by friends you’ve connected with through their service, or by other organizations, like Rolling Stone.
The playlist almost immediately starts playing. Since it’s ambient music, it’s often bands I’ve never heard of before, which isn’t entirely all that bad. Tapping the album cover art enlarges it. As most music apps go, you can thumb-up or thumb-down the song so that the service learns your tastes. From what I can tell, you can skip as many songs as you want. If you’re playing music through the Songza iPad app and switch to another application, the music keeps playing. It’s perfect for those that enjoy ambient music while reading on their iPad.
And, I forgot to mention earlier:
There are no audio ads!
This may be the thing, in my humble opinion, that sets Songza apart from the rest. There’s nothing that kills my productivity more than some shrill voice shilling their wares through my headphones. This simply doesn’t happen with Songza.
In checking out the rest of the tabs on the left side of the iOS app, Popular shows featured playlists, such as The Great Gatsby-inspired West Egg Nights, as well as trending and all-time favorite playlists. You’ll notice that these playlists are very much in the pop/Hot 100 genre. They’re useful to hear what the kids are listening to nowadays.
The My Playlists tab takes you to your saved playlists. In the lower half of the screen, you’re presented with songs and playlists that your friends on Songza have been listening to recently. This tab is a quick way to access the playlists you listen to most often. Now that you’ve learned a bit too much about my own musical tastes when it comes to genres I listen to while at work, you ought to consider sharing your own tastes in the comments.
In the Explore tab, you’ll see more interesting genre playlist choices, further subdivided depending on whether you begin with Genres, Activities, Moods, Decades, Culture, or Record-store Clerk. Though I haven’t listend to them yet, the playlists called Indie Music That’s Not Weird and Delightfully Eclectic Mixes have both piqued my interest based on their titles alone.
The Search tab allows you to search for any artist or playlist. When searching for an artist, Songza will pull up any playlist that includes a song from that artist. It’s a great way to find new music from artists similar to someone you already like.
In the release notes for Songza 3.0, they touted integration of high-quality audio by AUDYSSEY that’s not supposed to increase bit rates. I have yet to try this new feature, but I find it an intriguing addition. By tapping the Settings tab and then HQ Audio, you’re presented with the screen above, where you can choose what type of headphones you’re using. Ostensibly, the AUDYSSEY technology will configure the audio to optimize your listening experience.
Also, if you’re a person who prefers to fall asleep to music, check out the Sleep Timer function, also accessible through the Settings tab.
Suffice it to say, I’m a big fan of Songza.
Were you familiar with the service before reading this review? What iOS music apps do you most often use? What do you like or dislike about them?