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Why I chose Rdio over Spotify

I used to use Spotify, the UK's oldest all-you-can-eat music service; but now I've discovered Rdio, I'm not going back

Sweden's Spotify, founded by µTorrent's Daniel Ek, has been around since 2008. The US's Rdio, founded by Kazaa (and Skype's) Niklas Zennström (a Swede) and Janus Friis (a Dane), was launched in the UK in 2012. The similarities are surprising: both from the file-sharing past of the founders, to the price of their service - both cost £4.99 a month for desktop, £9.99 a month for desktop and mobile.

I've been using Spotify, off and on, since November 2008. Chances are, you'll be familiar with Spotify, too - probably from the free version, which has been significantly cut down in recent years. Spotify Free costs, as the name suggests, nothing - and gives you access to Spotify's entire music catalogue. However, nothing comes for free: you get a number of exceptionally low-quality ads every few songs; you have a time limit of streaming per week and per month; and you can only listen to songs a certain amount of times before they're permanently blocked. I elected to pay £4.99 a month for Spotify service, to avoid those issues.

Rdio has no such free service; but offers a free seven day trial. I gave it a go to see what the service was like: and instantly cancelled my Spotify subscription.

Here's why I chose Rdio:

No downloads required - while you have to download a piece of software to use Spotify, you don't for Rdio: in fact, Rdio uses its web interface as its main way to use the service. (Spotify is beta-testing a web interface to a small number of customers). Not requiring any software is a good thing: it means it works quite happily on any computer - Mac, Linux, Windows, even a Chromebook - and means that you can use it in a workplace that forbids software from being installed.

But there's a download available if you want - for the Mac and Windows. The benefits are slight: revolving around keyboard support (those pause/play buttons are useful for something), and 'collection matching', where it matches songs you already own.

No peer-to-peer - Spotify runs a peer-to-peer network; which can cause significant bandwidth usage, particularly if you've a ton of users in an office. My BT broadband connection behaved very oddly using Spotify at certain times of day, coinciding with the times of day where BT deliberately slow down BitTorrent-like services.

Pink Floyd! - it turns out that all music services are not the same. Rdio has Pink Floyd on it; Spotify doesn't. I like Pink Floyd.

Proper support - while Spotify supports, you have to enter your username and password separately in each application and each computer you own. Rdio supports it at an account level, and every single song you play on any device will be scrobbled instantly: no configuration required. This is a good thing.

Collections - a nice nod to the way we used to 'collect' music, Rdio lets me 'collect' songs and albums that I like, and add them to my 'collection' within the app (where I can sync albums to mobile, too). This is a smart idea, so people can look through my music collection, just as they might in my house (if I still owned any CDs). The only way you can do this on Spotify is to make a playlist or to star tracks; and that was fairly unwieldy.

Silence is not golden - play an album, and when the album finishes, Rdio will automatically play you the 'radio' service that you were last listening to: either a specific 'station' based on an artist you liked, or songs from your friends' collections. It's a highly social service, this, with your friends' activity front-and-centre; and it works well.

Multi-device support and remote control - I've saved the best 'till last. If you are playing Spotify on one machine and start playing it on another, it simply pauses the first machine. Rdio takes this significantly further. Play Rdio on one machine, and if you start Rdio on another computer it will let you remote control the machine that you're currently playing on. Start Rdio playing on an iPad, and you can control it from your computer - or even your Android mobile phone - by opening Rdio there, too. This feature is really, really neat.

Rdio has all the shared playlists and collaborative nonsense that Spotify has, incidentally - though you'll probably use them less, since Rdio's lack of a free model means significantly less users. (You can use re/spin to copy your Spotify playlists over.)

Rdio does have some negatives. While it has an API, Rdio doesn't have the same 'app' ecosystem as Spotify. Interestingly, I'm yet to miss that too much. The only thing I do miss is a lack of Britify, the excellent mashup between Spotify and BBC Radio playlists. Hopefully, the good folk behind Britify will code something soon. Don't make me code it, it'll be rubbish.

Rdio also suffers from a lack of decent internationalisation, where it gets confused between albums released for the US market and for the UK. As just one example, if someone in the US plays a track from The Shins' Port of Morrow, it's marked as "Unavailable" in their timeline if I look at it... because the version of Port of Morrow that I get to play here in the UK is different: the track is the same; but it has a different ID or something, so displays as unplayable. This is rather frustrating, to be honest. And the Android app is a little buggy in terms of syncing (though the iPad app is superb).

However, after all that, the remote control function has meant that, instead of spending £4.99 a month for Spotify desktop access, I'm very happy spending £9.99 a month for the Rdio mobile apps too.

Rdio appears to show, once again, that great user interface is the most important thing for media consumption; something that radio has yet failed to understand. If all I want is music, Rdio is a great experience. Try it for seven days free: you might like it too.

James Cridland is the Managing Director of Media UK, and a radio futurologist: a consultant, writer and public speaker who concentrates on the effect that new platforms and technology are having on the radio business.
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Recommendations: 0
Daniel Thornton

Interesting comparison…

I’ve been working alongside someone who uses Rdio – I’ve been paying for Spotify for years, so it’s been good fun taking a look at them side-by-side.

The main aspect for me is how both services allow you to curate and collect music and songs – I’ve certainly found that after years of usage, I have an overwhelming list of old, half-finished or badly thought out playlists sitting around that I rarely remember to even look at. There are definitely improvements that could be made by Spotify to make them more useful, and in the meantime, I definitely need to take a closer look at Rdio’s collections.

I don’t know if anyone has done a quantitative comparison of the catalogue of both. The lack of Pink Floyd isn’t a major issue for me, as I’ve got most of the Floyd I could ever want on CD by my desk anyway, and have been ripping CDs I own for personal use – but there always seem to be at least a few songs absent front Spotify which I wish were on there when it comes to the only slightly obscure…

Recommendations: 0
Neerav Bhatt

what do you think of Pandora James? I find it a great way to discover new music that I like

Recommendations: 0
James Cridland

I think it’s a very different product to Spotify or Rdio. And unavailable in the UK, sadly.

Recommendations: 1
Ton ™ posted

One other thing: Rdio allows you to add your comments/reviews to albums. A great way to discover favourite tracks. And a cool way to voice your enthousiasm for an album or an artist. Spotify has none of that.

Recommendations: 0
Ian Deeley

Now if only I’d of found ‘Match Collection’ at the start of the trial, instead of trying to do it by exporting iTunes Playlists as an XML...

Recommendations: 1
Brent Noorda

Rdio used to have the best music discovery process I’ve yet to come across. It worked like this: starting from any song you could find playlists that contained that song. So, for example, if I liked “Pussy Wiggle Stomp” I might investigate other playlists that contained that song and I would quickly find other people (whom I don’t know, and that aspect is important). If some stranger liked “Pussy Wiggle Stomp” enough to bother to add it to a playlist, then that’s exactly the playlist I want to investigate to find other things that a listener of PWS might enjoy.

Alas, that feature was removed. Ironically, it was removed at about the same time Rdio started putting up expensive billboards in S.F. and Times Square claiming “Human Powered Music Discovery.” Now their concentration is on letting me know what albums my friends listen to. But I don’t care what album my friend is listening to, unless I’m in the room with them, in which case I don’t need an app to tell.

Oh well, Rdio is still a great service (with the best streaming code, as I wrote in streaming app comparison under spotty network conditions), just not as great as it used to be, human-powered-discoverywise.

Recommendations: 0
Denis Bourne

The music streaming streaming business is starting to get competitive with Deezer linked with EE mobile bundles, also Nokia, Sony, Napster (Rhapsody), We7 (Tesco are relaunching it) all after UK customers for £5-10 pm alongside Rdio and Spotify, plus news that Google and Apple will start later in 2013?

Recommendations: 0
Denis Bourne


Recommendations: 1
James Martin

Check out… it’s in Dutch but I love the sheer simplicity of the product. Very easy to take a playlist they’ve produced, say what you do and don’t like and it segues properly too for a more radio like experience.

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Credits: Photo Adam Campbell