Rdio pretty much came out of an alternate dimension where people don’t use Spotify, and its effect on the streaming music industry is nothing short of remarkable. So remarkable that I found myself blindsided by numerous ‘what do you think about the new Rdio program’ questions to which I had no knowledge or prescribed response. As someone who had their eye on Spotify while it was still only available in the UK, I imagined that either Rdio had a better marketing department than Spotify (since despite my constant praise, still seems underused) or it was a far superior program. Results extracted from a somewhat thorough investigation were less than groundbreaking, and readers may find the final verdict as mundane as choosing between Hulu and Netflix. Maybe even less relevant. Anyway, here they are.
Both Spotify and Rdio are available in a number of counties, and restrictions don’t typically come into play. This is of course coming from someone who has never left the United States, but on a global scale, both programs are essentially congruous. The signup process is also similar in that both applications prefer data mining your social network accounts, but it’s possible to sign up for without the use of these given the right level of pertinence. Left is Rdio, Right is Spotify. Since my reading area is relatively small, click to see full-sized images.
Spotify’s interface represents something similar to a secondary music player, while Rdio acts more like a website. I prefer the Spotify interface due to the fact that A. I know how to use it, and B. I enjoy its similarity to iTunes, which is what I used before the whole advent of the (quality) online streaming music programs. In what will be a common occurrence in this piece, the interface is essentially a point of preference. The only major difference is the fact that Spotify behaves like an app, while Rdio behaves like a website. In terms of functionality, the interfaces are virtually identical.
Online and Offline Playback
As a longtime Spotify user, I’ll admit that their mobile platform is less than impressive. Difficult to navigate at times and a ‘available offline’ button that requires marine sniper-like precision can be a hindrance, which is something that Rdio does a good job of addressing. The Rdio mobile platform is attractive and easier to navigate, and also allows the storage of a bajillion songs as opposed to Spotify’s limit of 3,333 available tracks. For most people, this won’t make a whole lot of difference, but the Spotify limitations are definitely notable. Both platforms have similar synchronization and playback options, but Rdio has the clear edge, especially when viewed on a tablet device.
This is arguably the most important element to consider, and one that both programs are closely matched in. During my time spent investigating track availability, I found that both platforms had similar libraries, but might have different versions here and there. This isn’t all that surprising, since my thought is that most artists submit their albums to the companies independently. The only major difference I found is that the search is a bit more fickle for Rdio, and it may be necessary to choose the correct tab in order to find the track or album you’re looking for. For example, finding “Think I Need it Too” by Echo and the Bunnymen on Spotify is as simple as typing it into the search bar, while on Rdio, the returned results will be completely non-sequiter unless the search is narrowed using the proper tab. Spotify gets the edge here, but only because I’m so extremely lazy that the extra click gives me twitchy eye. Most individuals with any sort of motivation won’t find this to be a hindrance, but may not be able to find certain songs if they are unaware of who sings it or the exact title of the song.
Price and Subscription
It’s not surprising that both programs have similar pricing plans and accessibility. Spotify might be the seminal program in terms of subscription functionality, and it appears as though Rdio followed in its footsteps. Unlimited web-based playback will cost $4.99 a month, and mobile streaming will cost $9.99 for both services. The main difference is in the free versions. Spotify is free from now to infinity provided you don’t mind listening to intermittent nails-on-chalkboard advertisements, while Rdio only gives a certain number of monthly playbacks before you’re put in timeout. In addition, Rdio only let’s users leech for a certain amount of time before they require users to put a ring on it or get the fuck out. This really doesn’t factor too much into the decision in my opinion, as the free versions are both pretty annoying. Although if I were adamant about being frugal and didn’t listen to streaming music during every waking moment, the Rdio version might be a better choice given the infuriating nature of advertisements. As far as i can tell, Rdio is completely ad-free.
Spotify and Rdio are pretty similar in virtually every way, with a few slight variations. Users will essentially receive the same service for the same price, with the statically relevant difference being the mobile platform and interface itself. I suppose extrapolation could lead to the fact that Rdio seems to be the preferred medium for whatever reason, so individuals interested in hearing what other people are listening to might find better social interaction with Rdio. If you’ve already build your online snob reputation using Spotify, stick with it, but if you’d prefer riding the wave of the next cool thing, Rdio is not a bad way to begin your online musical journey. On that note, Spotify is more largely based in social media, but it’s pretty evident that Rdio is not only in the midst of employing the same strategy, but might already be as socially relevant as Spotify in that department.