Update: An Rdio third party tool now lets you import Spotify and Last.fm tracklists. At this stage Spotify playlists must be imported one by one, but it is still extremely useful. Find this tool here.
Ever feel like no matter how hard you try you just can't get your moment in the spotlight? Then you will be able to empathise with Rdio as it tries to fight the barrage of media coverage given over to chief rival Spotify. The big question is whether Rdio deserves to take centre stage…
Who Is Rdio?
Launched out of beta in August 2010, Rdio is what Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis did next. Like Spotify, Rdio has deals with all four of the major record labels (Sony, EMI, Warner and Universal), like Spotify it offers near instantaneous streaming music on a monthly subscription format and like Spotify it is available on virtually every major PC and mobile platform. Unlike Spotify, Rdio opened first in the US and only this month did it head to the UK.
This release strategy is the primary reason for Rdio's relative obscurity in Europe, but conversely it means the service arrives in a form just as refined and polished as Spotify when it launched Stateside last year. Crucially it also has some noticeable differences and, ultimately, a subtlety different philosophy. You won’t immediately spot these at the sign up stage. Rdio charges a Spotify-matching £4.99 per month for unlimited use of its service on a computer and £9.99 per month for unlimited use on a computer and mobile devices.
More than Playlists
From here the differences appear. Key to Rdio is your 'Collection', quite simply your personal music collection, which can be sorted automatically by Artist, Album, Song, Recently Added or Play Count. Any content found in Rdio can be added to your collection and it can also scan your existing iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries (much like iTunes Match) to add all matched content into your collection. This is a slick and simple way to get off to a flying start and to take the vast majority of your beloved digital music collection with you. There can be some issues with album duplication (the same album being added multiple times in different country versions or special editions), but Spotify users will be hugely jealous having cried out for an alternative to the company's rigid playlist-only system for years.
A further refreshing change is Rdio's approach to its available content. Rdio claims its library boasts over 15 million tracks, roughly the same number as Spotify, but where there are holes Rdio still lists the album but shows it as 'Not Available'. This is useful when discovering new artists since rival services simply omit content for which they have no licence and you are unable to get a true representation of an artist's discography. Interestingly unavailable content can still be added to your Collection in case it is licensed in future, but it would be nice if Rdio would notify you with information specific to that when new deals are struck.
Beyond this Rdio's functionality is very familiar: stream or download for offline listening, queue up music or create playlists, browse charts, new releases and view the most popular content and recent activity – either your own, your friends (see below) or on Rdio as a whole.
Whether the trend for forcing your listening habits onto your friends' social networks is a good thing or not is open to some debate, but having the option is welcome. Rdio doesn't have a high profile Facebook partnership nor does it require you to be a Facebook member to use it, but it still connects to the social network if you choose, shows what fellow Facebook Rdio subscribers are listening to and can publish your own listening. In addition it ties into Twitter (allowing you to link Tweet with links to content) and Last.fm.