Behind Google's Failed Bid for Playlisting Startup 8tracks

Google campus
Ole Spata/DPA/Landov 

In Google’s quest to acquire a music service, it appears that playlists are a priority. Playlist repository site 8tracks rejected a buyout offer from Google last fall, according to a source close to the San Francisco-based company. The search giant is reportedly on the prowl for music deals as it jockeys for market position alongside tech giants Apple and Amazon and streaming leader Spotify, but has yet to make a significant acquisition in the music arena.

The source characterized the unconsummated Google/8tracks deal as an “acquire-hire” arrangement, where 8tracks’ leadership would be at least as important to Google as its playlists or existing user base. Many such deals result in the shutdown of the acquired service or product, rather than its integration with the new parent company. But with factors “more than the price” in mind, the source said, 8tracks chose to remain independent, given that it has been profitable since 2012 and continues to grow.

The 8tracks bid apparently predates Google’s recent offer of $15 million to acquire Songza, a creator of professionally-curated playlists, which was described in a New York Post report in early June. In the wake of Apple’s deal for Beats last month, Google is rumored to be looking for deals that would either add new features to its existing Google Play Music All Access subscription service or bring in additional customers from another service. Google may also want to add another missing piece as it readies a new music service based on YouTube.

8tracks has about 11 million registered users, roughly 7 million of whom stream a playlist in a given month. The site is home to about 2 million user-generated playlists.

8tracks has raised about $1.5 million since its inception in 2006. Its official launch took place in August 2008, and it raised most of its private funding in a $1.2 million seed round in 2011, with contributions from Index Ventures, SoftTechVC, Andreessen Horowitz and others.

A Google spokesperson declined comment on matters related to acquisitions.