Alan Cross Joins Songza

Songza, the streaming music service that has 2.7 monthly uniques in Canada, is expanding its Canadian operations–and, er, I may have something to do with what’s going on.

This appeared on the front page of the financial section of the National Post today:

Like tens of thousands of other Ontarians who found themselves plunged into darkness and without electricity after an ice storm ripped through Canada’s largest city in the week before Christmas, Vanessa Thomas was left cold and without power for nearly 40 hours. Luckily for Ms. Thomas, managing director of Songza Canada, she had an array of winter-themed Songza playlists on her smartphone to help her pass the time while she waited for things to warm up.Since launching in Canada in 2012, Songza Media Inc. — a free online music streaming service that offers users curated playlists designed to accompany specific activities — has enjoyed a warm reception from Canadian music fans. The service signed up more than one million users in its first 70 days of operation and now boasts a Canadian user base of more than 2.7 million unique monthly users.But in 2014, Songza is planning to double down on Canada, where the market for digital streaming services is still in its early stages, by forming a deeper bond with Canadians through new promotions, an expanded team and a fresh take on Canada-specific music playlists.

While other music services such as Pandora and Spotify, as well offerings from Apple Inc. and Google Inc., have so far yet to reach Canada, Ms. Thomas said Songza sees opportunity for expansion in the Canadian market, both in terms of users and revenue opportunities.

“The Canadian market is a little bit more open and there’s less direct competition here, so far,” Ms. Thomas said in an interview from the company’s new office in the MaRS Discovery District near the University of Toronto’s downtown campus.

“Songza really came in at a good time in Canada. Canadians are not only very big music fans, but also early adopters of technology … There’s less noise up here in the space so I think that’s one of the reasons it took off.”

As with most other online service industries, on-demand streaming offerings tend to generally fall into two camps: those that are largely free to users and rely primarily on advertising revenue (such as Songza and Pandora), and subscription services where users tend to pay a monthly fee to access a library of music, such as those offered by Rdio and Deezer (two services that are available to Canadians).

For Ms. Thomas, success for Songza in Canada will rely on her and her team’s ability to create new relationships with Canadian brands hoping to tap into the company’s base of music fans for advertising and partnership opportunities.

To help tailor Songza’s playlists for a Canadian audience, the company has hired Alan Cross — a mainstay of Toronto’s broadcast radio industry and the creator of the long-running radio documentary series The Ongoing History of New Music — to serve as Songza Canada’s new head of curation.

Mr. Cross will be responsible for putting together a team of music experts who will craft playlists that appeal specifically to Canadian audiences, and in the spirit of Songza’s activity-based playlists, will provide background tunes for specific Canadian experiences.

“Canada has its own sense of moods, its own locations, its own activities, its own cultural things,” Mr. Cross said in an interview.

“Our Thanksgiving is in October and I think our Thanksgiving would have music that’s a little bit different from American Thanksgiving. What kind of music would you listen to with your kid on the way to the arena at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning to play hockey? We have cottage culture that is certainly a lot different than what you have in the United States. Our football is different … we’re just a different people, and we want to be able to match up these differences with the appropriate music.”

Read the whole article here.  Meanwhile, watch this space for more news on what’s going on with Songza in Canada.

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