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Who Should Be On Lyft’s Playlist After Justin Bieber?

Rob Pegoraro
Contributing Editor

Because I am always behind the times in pop culture, I almost missed my chance to discover that such a thing as “Bieber Mode” exists. But the fates intervened to ensure that I opened the Lyft app on my phone Tuesday night and was presented with an offer to “Slide into Bieber Mode.”

That, for the uninitiated, is a promotion the ride-hailing service has been running with the Canadian popster: Opt in, and you’ll be charged an extra $5 to get a download of Bieber’s new album Purpose, but you’ll then get a $5 credit off a future Lyft ride.

I briefly wondered whether I could sign up for the $5 credit without actually consummating the deal, but my fear of spending my own bucks on Bieber led me to a different money-saving deal: the UberPool carpool option that Uber just launched in D.C.

The odds are against me having a chance to reconsider, since Bieber Mode shuts off at 11:59 p.m. PT tonight (November 19). Lyft PR declined to say how many downloads have happened as a result of the promotion or whether similar promotions were in store. (To be fair, the folks there may be distracted by BusinessWeek’s report of a breathtaking cash burn at the San Francisco startup.)

But let’s assume that this really does represent a new way to market music. Lyft could go with the precedent it’s set and anoint another controversial Canadian act — that’s right, Nickelback Mode! — but maybe it would do better by picking an artist with a name that it evokes its core competency.

Death Cab For Cutie: The Bellingham, Washington-based alt-rockers are an obvious pick, but they might balk at signing up with a name-brand dot-com, less such commercialism jeopardize their indie cred. A moniker that leads off with “Death” could also pose brand-impairment issues for Lyft.

Cab Calloway: What a perfect name! Alas, the jazz great passed away 21 years ago, and his estate may not be that invested in drumming up new business.

Asleep at the Wheel: The legendary Texas-swing band isn’t averse to a little corporate sponsorship, as I realized when I saw them play a corporate gig at SXSW two years ago. ( #humblebrag: Willie Nelson joined them onstage.) But the name isn’t a good match for a service that promises safe, worry-free conveyance.

Traffic: The ‘60s group led by Steve Winwood has a name that fits Lyft’s mission quite well and would connect with a different (read: totally older) demographic than Beliebers.

The Cars: “Who’s Going To Drive You Home Tonight?” is the basic sales pitch of every ride-hailing service. In other news, I’m sorry I put that song in your head. Give “Let’s Go” a listen on YouTube to dislodge it.

The Highwaymen: The country supergroup has a title that fits acceptably well. And while founding member Willie Nelson did finally pay off his tax debts, he could probably still use the money.

Drive-By Truckers: Lyft could do a lot worse than stage a promotion with this alternative-country band, especially in the South.

Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels: This ’60s group’s hit “Devil With a Blue Dress On” is a perennial Halloween-costume theme, and ride-hailing apps are immensely convenient for booze-soaked holidays like Halloween. Maybe we’ll see some kind of marketing deal next October?

Moon Taxi: Yes, yet another obvious reference to Lyft’s competition. I will admit that I hadn’t heard of this group until seeing its name come up in a search on Amazon’s MP3 site, then I watched a performance by this Nashville band on, um, another site owned by Yahoo Tech’s publisher.

Catherine Wheel: On one hand, this is a serious stretch, as this British alt-rock band’s name refers not to any transportation mechanism but to a fireworks setup that in turn is named for a medieval torture device. On the other hand… wait for it… some would consider this moniker an apt sequel to having their ride-hailing app get Biebered up.

Email Rob at rob@robpegoraro.com; follow him on Twitter at @robpegoraro.