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Queens Music Startup Shares Playlists Picked by Celebs

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | August 21, 2012 6:55am

LONG ISLAND CITY — It's a high note for Songza.

The free LIC-based Internet music startup that streams playlists matching listeners' moods and activities recently sparked the interest of some of the biggest names in the biz, including Justin Bieber and Ke$ha who have created playlists for its listeners.

Songza, owned by a group of friends from college, also recently picked up the financial backing of Amazon.com and Troy Carter, Lady Gaga’s manager, the company said.

Listeners can browse from about 100,000 free playlists on their computers and iPhones — each containing between 80 and 100 songs selected by music critics, DJ’s and celebrities — or create their own.

Justin Bieber recently jumped into the mix, creating a playlist for the company last week including Usher's "You Got it Bad." He got involved after a filmmaker who worked with Bieber mentioned it to him.

“He got really big playing covers of songs on YouTube so he made a playlist on Songza of all of the songs he performed on YouTube to get popular,” said Elias Roman, co-founder and CEO of Songza.

Some playlists are for work and study, others for waking up in the morning. Some are designed for parties or to improve your workout, while others aim to help you fall asleep.

Songza's users also can look up playlists according to their mood or by the decade when songs were released.

The music startup, which is based in an old lens factory on 46th Avenue,  has landed a number of new investors, including Carter, NBA star Baron Davis and talent agency William Morris Endeavor, which joined Amazon.com and Metamorphic Ventures in supporting the company.

Roman, a graduate of Brown University, along with college buddies Peter Asbill and Elliott Breece, started their first company, an online music store called Amie Street, when they were still in college in 2006.

But about two years later, the trio noticed that college kids had stopped downloading music.

“They were streaming it online, and whether or not they owned it was totally irrelevant,” Roman, 28, a Queens native, said. “It was a really big shift.”

Trying to be ahead of the trend, they bought Songza in 2008 from two Chicago entrepreneurs. At that time, it was mostly a search for YouTube videos, Roman said, but they overhauled it and released its new version in September 2011.

In July, Songza served about 2 million unique listeners in the U.S. alone and recently has opened in Canada.

“In six days, we were the number one iPhone app in Canada,” Roman said.

“Music really affects people’s moods,” he said. “And we want our app to make your life better.”