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Will this feature convince you to ditch Spotify for Google Play Music?

It’s called Concierge and it’s will provide custom playlists based on your situation and mood.

CREATING PLAYLISTS CAN be a pain at the best of times. When you create one, it’s usually one that will put you in a specific mood or reflect how you’re feeling.

Yet while there is a case of sharing playlists, it doesn’t really cater towards individual tastes. While you could find a workout playlist on Spotify, for example, it likely caters for a specific genre of music, one that you might not listen to or enjoy. Also, unless you’ve a lot of free time, discovering new tracks and music outside the artists and songs you enjoy is not an easy process.

That’s what Google Play Music hopes to change as it introduces ‘Concierge,’ a new feature which makes its Irish debut today.

Essentially, it makes sure the music you’re listening to reflects the context of your situation. It looks for it calls ‘signals,’ like the day of the week, the time of day, the device you’re using, the genres and songs you listen to and other factors to determine the right music to play.

How it works is from picking a specific activity – for example, a Thursday morning could present you with playlist options for exercising, commuting or lying in – it presents a more specific options until you settle on the playlist you want. It’s done in two or three clicks/taps and the process.

Songza Google Play Music 2

If this sounds somewhat familiar, it’s probably because it started out as a service called Songza, a music recommendation service which Google acquired back in July. Google soon integrated it into Play Music near the end of 2014

For Songza founders, Elias Roman and Peter Asbill, who are now part of Google Play Music, implementing it wasn’t a challenge (Roman described working with Google as adding “fuel to the fire”), but one of the reasons it works is because choosing a playlist isn’t a chore.

“You think a lot about the decision tree,” says Roman. “There are certain experiences, like when you set up Netflix for the first time, you go through an on- boarding self-survey, we try to make it seamless so we can learn as much about you but never make it feel like self-profiling cause that’s not fun.”

While there’s a large collection of playlists available, each one relating to a specific context, the other challenge was to make sure it wasn’t overwhelming for the user. Asbill likens it to an iceberg in that you’re seeing the top but there’s much more happening underneath the surface.

We’re always only showing you the tip of the iceberg, there’s all this other stuff, but you shouldn’t be burdened with that. We want you to make small, easy decisions, but you shouldn’t have to decide among 30 million songs. That’s absurd, that’s way too many. We should be able to tee up the ones that are best for you, right at this moment.

Songza Google Play Music Source: Google Play Music

But how exactly do they establish what playlists are created and the songs that are included? Roman gives the quick answer “intuition and data”, but the longer answer is that it’s a mixture of human curators – roughly ten to twelve music professionals helped shape the playlists for Ireland – and learning what the user likes through their listening history.

Most playlists start with a blank slate as it learns what exactly each user likes, but Asbill mentions that pretty much everything is tested to make sure it’s providing the best experience possible.

We test everything. We test every assumption, we look at the data, we look at how things are performing, we look at it on a song-by-song basis. Is this song working really well and if not, why? Is it in the wrong playlist? Is it in the wrong order? There are all sorts of different reasons that we try to get at through the data.

That testing is particularly important when dealing with local content as songs that might be popular in the US might not be relevant here.

A playlist like one-hit wonders may have some overlap, but if the music isn’t relevant to the area, then things fall apart. Similarly, if you wanted a playlist for going to the pub or wanted one while you have a party, different people will require different playlists.

On top of that, there are some other draws to this is the ability to download songs if you’re an All Access user, you can launch a radio station based on any song you listen to, and searching a specific term like ‘napping’ will bring up playlists relevant to that.

Yet it’s Concierge that Google hopes will bring people over to its music service. Whether it will be enough to put a dent on Spotify and other competitors is hard to say, but with that and YouTube Music Key up and running, it’s certainly making a push for their audience.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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