Rdio: Social Music on the Web

Music has always been a social experience. From the first live concerts being played to slapping a vinyl down onto the record player, we strive to share the music that we’ve found with others. Take this concept and combine it with the amount of conection that we get from the Internet, and you’ve got a wealth of services that would like for you to share your music through them.

Rdio is one of those services, and while we’ve taken a look at the app before, Rdio recently went free-to-play, allowing you to listen to a certain number of tracks for absolutely nothing.

Should you choose Rdio as the platform to share what you’re listening to, or finding new music? Let’s find out.

On Plans

Now, the first thing that you need to realize is that Rdio, as a service, gets better with the more money you put into it. You can pay nothing and have an ad-free experience via the browser, but you’ll only have a certain amount of tracks to play. Conversely, you can pay $4.99 a month and waive the listening limit, or $9.99 a month to get unlimited listening on the web and on your mobile devices.

Rdio's excellent splash screen.

Rdio's excellent splash screen.

The free offering is strong, and that ‘ad-free’ part of it should appeal to many users. I, for one, don’t want to listen to advertisements while I’m trying to listen to music and relax. I also don’t want my entire computer screen to be taken up with an ad for something that I don’t want, and Rdio’s solution is golden. The track limit is incredibly high (as per Mac.AppStorm’s Joshua Johnson) and casual users are unlikely to run into problems.

Catalog

I was able to find every song that I wanted to listen to with Rdio. I was pleasantly shocked by this, as my tastes tend to be rather eclectic/niche-y, ranging from post-hardcore and pop-punk to post-rock and, given the season, John Denver and the Muppets. Songs that were years old were in the catalog, and I found that new releases were available the same day that they came out on CD (as if anyone buys those anymore).

Everything that you would expect to find is here, from contemporary radio-rock/pop and some of the classics (and, allow me to say, you can’t be a music service unless you provide access to Jessie’s Girl) to new releases or niche albums.

Songs are available for purchase straight from the app, averaging at about $1.29 (the same price as iTunes) if you’d like to give whatever artist you’re listening to a bit more money.

Connecting to other Social Networks

I get it; you want to share what you’re listening to with Twitter and Facebook. That’s fine, and Rdio understands as well. Rdio even takes advantage of Facebook’s just-released ‘ticker’, pushing the music that you listen to straight to your profile and your friends’ News Feed. Luckily, for those of us that prefer to listen to California Girls while we’re eating Ben & Jerry’s and crying (that can’t possibly be just me) this can be turned off through the settings. You can also share straight to Twitter, with a link to the song that anyone can play.

Please don't stalk me.

Please don't stalk me.

Let’s say that you want some recommendations for new music, though, and you’re already fond of the English music-recommendation-social-network-in-a-box Last.fm service. Rdio’s got you covered there as well, making it easy to connect your two accounts and automatically ‘scrobbling’ (Last.fm’s terminology for syncing) the music that you listen to up to the powerful recommendation engine.

In this day and age of connectivity, a service can’t swim by itself. We’re already invested with sharing through Facebook and Twitter, and Rdio understands that. Everything works seamlessly, connecting accounts is easy, and the ability to turn off the automatic pushing to Facebook allows you to control what people see, preserving your air of mystery (or, in my case, manhood).

Rdio’s Built-in Social Features

Of course, those features alone wouldn’t allow Rdio to stand out from the pack. It isn’t rare for a service to support the Big Two (by which I mean Twitter and Facebook), but Rdio takes things a step further and builds its own social network as well. These features make the experience even more fun to use, allowing you to connect with people that you might appreciate for their taste in music but have no desire to view pictures of their children.

Viewing the subscribed playlists.

Viewing the subscribed playlists.

The biggest social feature would have to be the public playlists. You can subscribe to other people’s playlists that they curate and publish, as though you were signing up for a mix-tape mailing list. Beyond that, you can also collaborate with others to create a playlist, expanding your musical horizons and allowing you to participate in something that might be great. By allowing users to do this, Rdio has taken what everyone is using Rdio for in the first place–the music–and combined it with the community that has always sprung up around great music.

Finding people to follow.

Finding people to follow.

You can also follow people to see what they’re listening to, with Rdio finding the people that you’re already friends with (or following) via Twitter and Facebook and also giving you the option of finding new people to listen to, including ‘influencers’ and people that have similar tastes.

Beyond that, Rdio has found a way to make public reviews fun and worthwhile. Anyone can write a review for an album (or, even, a single song) and it will be visible to other users. As you review more music you’ll be labelled as more influential, and it’s a nice way of combining two different aspects of the music industry. I’d like it if there were a way to promote reviews, but I’ll take what I can get.

Rdio is my Favorite Streaming Service

That’s it, in a nutshell. I’ve tried Grooveshark, and I’ve tried Spotify; I used to listen to the radio, and I was a huge fan of Pandora. All of those other services are fine, but nothing offers the complete package like Rdio does. Not only is the catalog high-quality (to me, at least, a non-audiophile) but the amount of music available is staggering.

Combined with a stellar interface and a healthy ecosystem of applications for all sorts of devices, Rdio is my streaming service of choice. Now that it’s free there’s no reason not to give it a try, but I’m sure that if you like what you hear you’ll decide to fork over that little bit of extra cash. Rdio is the ideal listening experience, and I can’t imagine using another experience (right now, anyway).


Summary

Rdio is a streaming music service that recently added the ability to play music for free, with no ads, and a strong focus on the social aspects of listening to music.

  • Rdio  | 
  • Free/$4.99/$9.99  | 
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