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19 April 2011

Thoughts on Rdio

Clearly, each of the services get some things right.  I could go into detail about why I like Rdio and chose it over its competitors (, Pandora and Slacker), but this post is mainly about why Rdio is right for me and a what would make it better.

The Good
I like Rdio mainly because it gives me flexible listening options:

  • It lets me have playlists with cherry-picked songs.
  • It can generate playlists based on an artist.
  • I can queue up entire albums.
  • I can listen to songs offline using my android phone.
Although they didn't have it when I started my subscription, Rdio have added a public API, which is cool.  This means that developers will create interesting applications that use Rdio (unlike say, Pandora). I've played around with it a bit and it is pretty natural.

I absolutely *love* that I can listen to entire albums at once.  Remember that band you heard that one song from once and you meant to go back and check them out?  Only, you had a terrible time finding a decent way to sample all their music and you weren't ready to make the commitment of actually paying for it.  (We have all made that mistake before.)  Rdio solves that problem: queue up their catalog and listen to everything for a day or two.  Then go buy, or not.

Room For Improvement
Offline Content
  • I wish the desktop application had offline mode like the mobile app.  
  • Managing offline media from the mobile application is cumbersome, especially if you have synced a lot of songs.  
  • Managing media from the desktop application is even more difficult.
  • It would be awesome if I could create a station based on an artist and then sync those songs (in much the same way I can create a playlist and sync those songs with one action).

Most of my grief with offline songs would be eliminated if there were a way to expire the offline content so I didn't have to manage it myself (like a DVR).  E.g.: keep this song for a [week, month, etc.], delete it after I play it [once, twice, three times, etc.]

Rdio does not have "genius mode."  I would like to generate an awesome playlist based on a single song of my choosing (like iTunes).  They have artist-based playlists, but it isn't the same.  Theoretically, an enterprising programmer should be able to create software that exports an iTunes genius playlist (or any iTunes playlist) to an Rdio playlist.  Sounds like a fun weekend project.

I wish I could create multiple queues (e.g.: a "work" queue, a "home" queue, and a "quiet sunday" queue).  I could use playlists for this but I cannot add entire albums to playlist unless I add the songs one at a time.

The Rdio machine learning algorithms could take a lesson from Pandora or  They are not that good.

If you use queues and then go listen to another song, your currently playing queue item (an album) is lost.  This used to bite me a lot and annoyed me until I eventually changed my habits.  This could be resolved if Rdio just remember where I was in the queue when I play something adhoc.

It takes too long to go from pushing the play button on my mobile player to actually hearing something.  If this is a problem of pushing bits, maybe Rdio could push some low-quality data (doesn't require as much bandwidth) at first to get some data on the users player quickly, then come in later with the full-quality audio.  If this is a latency problem, my bad.

Rating, Scrobbling and Data
It would be cool to scrobble love/hate from Rdio.  Currently I have to go to the website to do it.  Also, it would be nice to rate songs (like iTunes) or tag them as I listen to them.  This is helpful for music discovery at times when I do not really want to be distracted by the process of copying down a song or artist name.

Something to Show For it All
This isn't a deal-breaker (none of it is, after all--I am paying for the service).  It saddens me that if I give Rdio $10 a month for the next 10 years and then stop, I will have nothing to show for it but the memories.  It would be great if I could keep some of the music permanently.

I realize that it is the same value proposition as cable TV and that I would have my cake and eat it too.  But folks--this is music.  I am used to keeping what I pay for.

I like Rdio.  Out of all the players so far, it works best for me.  It as the most flexible listening options of any streaming music service, but I think there is room for improvement.  I hope they keep up the good work.