Today, Clear Channel’s iHeartRadio borrowed a chapter from young startup Songza: The new “Perfect For” feature copies Songza’s Concierge feature, down to the look of the icons, that allows users to select music for specific activities, moods and time of day.
That iHeartRadio copied Songza is less important than the fact that a larger competitor acknowledged there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Pandora has set the standard by which all other Internet radio services have followed: Users start with an artist or song, build channels and refine them through feedback (thumbs up and down).
Songza’s Concierge feature, launched in March 2012, changed the way people listen to Internet radio. The starting point is a particular activity or mood for a particular time of the day (waking up, working, studying, exercising, winding down, partying). Listeners may get a soft, acoustic playlist in the early morning or a deep house playlist in the evening.
Songza couldn’t help but notice the similarity. “Years of iteration and data collection inform the technology, design and curation that make Songza work, but for another service to start down the trail that we’ve blazed does not come as a surprise,” CEO Elias Roman told Billboard.biz. “And after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”
Perfect For imitates Concierge while throwing in its own flair. On Monday afternoon, for example, Perfect For offered music for “A Midday Slump,” Surfing the Web,” “Studying” and “Working” — all the types of activities seen on Concierge — as well as “When I Still Had Hair,” a group of playlists ranging from classic rock to ’70s and ’80s punk.
But Perfect For doesn’t always act like Concierge. The “Studying” icon, for example, leads to seemingly unrelated playlists such as “alternative aerobics” (featuring Kings of Leon and Kelly Clarkson) and “industrial metal motivation” (with Nine Inch Nails and Godsmack) as well as school-themed playlists like “college years” and “school’s out.” And it’s clear iHeartRadio hasn’t invested proper time curating the pages. One might expect the “viral distractions” to be social media favorites, but, most of the songs predate YouTube and Twitter.
Perfect For’s shortcomings on its first day are not the point. What’s important here is that an innovation in Internet radio has spread from a small, upcoming service to the second-largest Internet radio service in the U.S. Internet radio just got a bit more interesting.