A Review of Rdio

A Socially-rich Streaming Music Service Accessible From Multiple Devices

Rdio Logo
Rdio Logo. Wikimedia Commons

The Background on Rdio

First launched in 2010, Rdio was the first professional online music streaming service in the U.S. It was initially developed by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis who are also the founders of the VoIP service, Skype. Rdio steadily rolled out its platform worldwide.

With millions of songs in its library to tap into, a free account that doesn't have ads, and a mobile music option, was this the best cloud music service yet?

On November 16, 2015, Rdio filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, selling assets and intellectual property to Pandora. Rdio service was discontinued effective December 22, 2015.

The Pros

  • No advertisement interruptions even for Rdio's free option (unlike most other competing services).
  • Large library of songs that cover a good range of genres.
  • Unlimited streaming music (when subscribing).
  • Desktop app gave you Collection Matching for iTunes and Windows Media Player (similar to iTunes Match)
  • Option to listen to music offline (Unlimited subscription plan only).
  • Excellent support for mobile music apps (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone 7).
  • Strong social networking tools and integration with Facebook, Twitter, and Last.fm.

The Cons

  • Music streaming using the free account is limited.
  • Rdio lacked advanced search features -- e.g. by genre, year, etc.

Getting Started

It was easy to get started with Rdio, needing either an email address or a Facebook account.

No need to provide payment details up-front.

Rdio Desktop App

Rdio offered a desktop app for Mac and PC which enabled you to use the service without a browser. It also added features such as mirroring your music library in the cloud and using your keyboard's media keys. The coolest feature was called Collection Matching.

This scanned the contents of your iTunes or Windows Media Player library to see if there's a match in Rdio's huge music cloud. Each track that it correctly matched was automatically added to your online collection without any uploading.

Music Service Options

Rdio Free

If you like to test drive a service before you buy, then Rdio's free music offering gave you a good taste of how the platform operated without any financial risks. Rdio Free, like other services that provide a freemium option, was a basic version of the company's more full-featured subscription tiers (see options below). It was a streamlined version that showcased the essentials so you could decide if it's a service you'd like to use long term.

The free Rdio option came without the usual advertisements. Rdio chose not to follow the business model of slipstreaming ads into songs.

Social features were plentiful on Rdio, but we especially liked collaborative playlists. This helped you to work in a group to make the ultimate compilation. This was a great two-way feature that really added a social spark to Rdio.

Rdio Web

This was the first subscription tier up from the free account and was probably the one you'll want to subscribe to.

Using this subscription plan got you unlimited streaming music so you didn't have to worry about running out of listening time every month.

Rdio Unlimited

If you required maximum flexibility on how you listen, discover, and share music, then Rdio's Unlimited plan was the one. As well as unlimited music, there was good support for a range of mobile devices. You could also stream content in your home via Sonos and Roku systems if you prefer.  

Music Discovery Tools

  • Search Bar: To look for something specific, you would go to the search box at the top of the screen. Here you could type in an artist/band, album title, or a track name for example. However, there was no advanced search to drill down deeper if you wanted to filter results by genre or year for instance.
  • Heavy Rotation: This displayed a selection of albums based on what you have listened to so far and who you were following on Rdio's social network.  
  • Top Charts & New Releases: Other ways of discovering music included, Top Charts and New Releases. These two options are useful if you wanted to see the latest happenings on Rdio.

Conclusion

Rdio was similar to other mainstream offerings, but its main differences were its strong social element. Many of the tools had a social connection for discovering and sharing music. We especially liked the tight integration of Rdio's own social network where you could follow others, share your discoveries and collaborate on playlists.