Pandora's model of determining what you might like to listen to with an algorithm is being challenged by companies like Slacker, who use human music experts to build and fine-tune playlists. Songza Sets is another company that is trying to combine the human touch with an on-demand, streaming distribution model. Songza Sets presents daily, hand-picked, 12-song playlists that follow a certain theme. The result is a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience that lets users discover great new music.
The themes for Songza Sets are fairly creative to this point. For example, one set is made up of indie songs that have been featured in commercials, so listeners are treated to Phoenix's "1901," featured in a Cadillac commercial, as well as The Arcade Fire's "Wake Up" from the trailer for "Where the Wild Things Are." Each song is accompanied by a short description, explaining why it was included. Every week, Songza Sets also features a set containing a selection of songs from the Hot 100 from the past week.
Songza's design works really well and a great looking graphic accompanies every set it puts out. They have also set up a Twitter account that tweets when new sets are posted. However, an RSS feed on the Songza Sets site is conspicuously absent.
While I am a big fan of automated music services like Pandora, I do think that there is something to be said for a human touch when dealing with music. While it isn't a total streaming music replacement and won't kill Pandora or Slacker, Songza Sets is a nice, once-a-day exploration of a hand-picked, thematic playlist.