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Google's Plan to Win the Music-Streaming Marketing War: Partner With Cool Brands

ASOS and Munchery back free radio service

The advertising-supported online radio space is messy. Pandora, Spotify, Apple, iHeartRadio and Google are all duking it out for the biggest piece of the market, and they're all putting serious marketing muscle behind online music.

Just this week, Apple and Google launched new campaigns, but the tech giants face tough competition. According to a report earlier this year from Edison Research and Triton Digital, 54 percent of online listeners use Pandora, while 21 percent prefer either Spotify or iHeartRadio.

In June, Google made its first foray into free, ad-supported online radio with Google Play Music, which includes thousands of curated playlists as part of its acquisition of Songza in 2014.

To draw attention to those stations, Google and digital agency Essence are teaming up with brands like fashion retailer ASOS and Munchery—a startup that prepares, cooks and delivers healthy dinners—to take online radio offline.

"One of the key features of Google Play Music are these stations that make whatever you're doing IRL [in your real life] better," said Jessica Igoe, Google Play's head of global media and content partnerships. "These digital partnerships with ASOS, Munchery and others that we'll be announcing are critical to reach music fans where they're doing things that we think could be a little more interesting."

With ASOS, Google built a shoppable look book to put together outfits for summer music festivals, parties and holidays. Each page of the digital magazine includes a link to a themed playlist created by Google.

For Munchery, Google is matching up music playlists with online menus. For example, a playlist called "Happy Hour Country Radio" promotes a mac and cheese and fried chicken dinner.

The radio stations were created by Munchery's chefs, adding a human touch to the campaign. In an era of algorithms, Eddie Revis, creative media and strategy lead at Essence, pointed out that's a key to nailing music marketing.

"Munchery listened to Google's radio stations to pair it [with food], so it was human-curated—their chef actually listened to the station," he said.

Google's Igoe declined to say how much this year's push costs but acknowledged that it's a hefty chunk of change going into music.

"Music is our priority within Google Play—it's the main focus area for the second half of the year," she said.

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