In the face of growing competition in the streaming music market, Rdio, a four-year-old service that charges for online subscriptions, has moved into a new phase with abundant free music — as well as free music’s ever-present companion, advertising.
“What we’ve learned collectively over the last few years,” said Anthony Bay, Rdio’s chief executive, “is that the most successful models are freemium models.”
As The New York Times reports today, Rdio has done well over the past few years, but it is clear that other competitors (most notably Spotify) have been doing far better by placing a strong focus on a freemium business model. As a result, today's updates to Rdio aren't much of a surprise to me, but I'm glad they have also taken the time to once again refine the design of their apps.
For those curious, the free version of Rdio will be available in 20 countries initially and will allow unlimited access to stations. Rdio Unlimited will unlock the ability to play albums and playlists, as well as remove ads for $9.99.
Rdio’s move is a result of a deal with the radio network Cumulus Media that was announced a year ago, in which Cumulus was granted an equity stake of at least 15 percent in Rdio’s parent company, Pulser Media, in exchange for providing content and promotional services that Cumulus says are worth $75 million over five years.
The new design is not a major departure from their existing designs, but rather a welcome refinement. For example the new apps get rid of the confusing to distinguish 'Heavy Rotation' and 'Top Charts' sections and are instead replaced with a far more understandable section called 'Trending'. There is also a new 'Browse' section which has curated Rdio stations into various categories including 'Top Stations', 'Aussie Hits', 'Alternative' and 'Fitness'.
The other big new feature isn't actually available yet, but there will also be a 'Home' tab which promises to be "an evolving feed of personalized music stories that surfaces the best of Rdio in a single destination". It'll be built from what you listen to, your friends listening activity, recommendations from Rdio, and other factors. On the whole it seems like a more advanced music discovery tool than the currently available 'Recommendations' page, which is mostly based on your music listening habits.
Popular music tagging app Shazam received a major update today, which adds full track playback capabilities powered by Rdio.
From the Rdio blog:
Today, we’re thrilled to announce that we are growing our team with the acquisition of TastemakerX, a leading music discovery and curation service. Based in San Francisco, TastemakerX was founded in 2011 to help artists connect with fans. TastemakerX enables listeners to discover new music, build and listen to virtual collections, and view artists based on social discovery.
The interesting part, as noted by Brad Hill at RAIN News, is that this acquisition follows the news of Spotify acquiring The Echo Nest (the leading music intelligence company) back in March, when I purposefully included a note on third-party services using it for essential music discovery/recommendation features.
Rdio announced they'd stop using The Echo Nest after the company was acquired (smart and obvious move). Here's a VentureBeat article from last year with more details on TastemakerX.
In a post published on their official blog last week, music streaming service Rdio has announced that they've started a conversion process to offer their entire catalog in higher quality:
As the initial step in this program, Rdio has begun to convert its entire existing catalog to the AAC format and will deliver 320KbPS as our new standard — without increasing our price. In addition, and as part of our ongoing commitment to the artist community, Rdio will work closely with artists and labels from around the world to continue to raise the bar higher on streaming quality where sufficient network bandwidth exists, and to improve stream delivery in markets around the world where network quality and bandwidth are often inconsistent.
Since its launch, Rdio has always streamed at a highest quality of 192kbps, with variable bitrates for mobile devices. Rdio is the latest music service to start offering 320kbps streams, as both Spotify and Beats Music already provide higher quality to paid subscribers (Beats Music included the option since day one).
Music streaming service Rdio has today released an update to their iOS app that brings a new design for Profile views, a sleep timer, and various UI improvements for iOS 7.
The Rdio app has been regarded as one of the iOS 6 apps that, in hindsight, got the design of iOS 7 right before Apple even unveiled iOS 7, but, after the release of the OS in September, Rdio hasn’t done much to turn what was a forward-looking iOS 6 app into a real iOS 7 app. Today, version 2.5.4 shows an iOS 7 keyboard for search and it brings subtle changes to backgrounds, but otherwise Rdio hasn’t received a major redesign for iOS 7 yet.
Profiles views have been updated, showing avatars in the middle of the screen on a blurred background of the profile picture itself. The new design is available for both your personal profile and other people’s profile views, and it gives you easier access to a person’s “FM” station as well as the song they last played on Rdio.
In this update, Rdio also included a sleep timer feature: from the Settings, you can choose to automatically stop music playback after 15 to 120 minutes, which is a handy addition for people who like to put on some music before bedtime. You can get Rdio 2.5.4 on the App Store.
In a move that doesn't come as a surprise following Apple's entrance in the online radio space with iTunes Radio, music streaming Rdio is announcing today that the "Stations" feature will be free for all non-subscribers. Until today, people could try out Rdio's full feature set for 14 days, then sign up at $9.99 per month; after today, Stations will remain always available -- without the 14-day limitation -- in Rdio's mobile apps.
We’re inviting everyone to listen to all of Rdio’s stations, drawing from over 20 million songs, through our mobile apps for iOS and Android without ever pulling out the plastic. Even if your subscription or trial has ended, you’ll be able to choose from 10 different station types — including stations based on artist, song, and over 400 genres plus You FM, a personalized station based on your listening habits — so you can keep the music playing for as long as you want at no cost to you.
Casey Newton has an interview with Rdio's Chris Becherer at The Verge:
To get the complete Rdio service, which includes on-demand listening of tracks and offline song storage, the user still has to pay $9.99 a month. But executives hope that if the people who complete the free trial continue listening to Stations, they’ll be more likely to subscribe in the long run. "We don’t need you to subscribe right away," says Chris Becherer, vice president for product, in an interview with The Verge. "You can live inside Stations for a long time. We think that over time, you’ll start building up your collection, building up your favorites. And whenever you do subscribe, all that stuff is ready to go.
The new free radio feature is available for users in the US, Canada, and Australia. More details on how it works from Rdio:
By combining The Echo Nest’s Taste Profiling technology with Rdio’s beautifully dynamic design and rich data on listening history, we’ve unlocked an unprecedented personal radio experience for all mobile users to enjoy for free.
I have been listening to Rdio Stations for the past few months, and the quality of their recommendations is impressive. The "Your FM" personalized station has been particularly accurate in the songs and artists it recommends, and I believe that if Rdio can scale well enough to accomodate free users on Stations without sacrificing quality, the feature could help in selling more subscriptions. It'll be interesting to see the repercussions of Apple's iTunes Radio and Rdio's new free option in a few months.
Rdio for iOS can be found here.
From the Rdio blog:
Hot on the heels of our Stations launch, we’ve built Recommendations as another great means of effortless music discovery. Powered by technology from The Echo Nest, the new feature provides a steady stream of new music recommendations — including albums, stations, and playlists — based on what you listen to most and who you’re following.
I've long wished for Rdio Recommendations to come back, as I think they used to a great way to find new music in the Rdio 1.0 days. Rdio has changed in the past two years, and the need for Recommendations was partially obviated by Your FM and stations. However, I'm looking forward to seeing if the dedicated section will be as good as the original one used to be – particularly in how it should recommend entire albums and stations.
According to Rdio, Recommendations will be added to the iOS app “soon” – hopefully alongside an update for iOS 7.
Following the introduction of improved, personalized radio stations in early August, Rdio has today rolled out an update to its iOS app that brings a wider range of controls for stations and Collection views to iPhones and iPads.
In stations, it's now possible to alter the selection of tracks that the service will automatically pick choosing between “Familiar” and “Adventurous” settings with three additional levels of fine-tuning in the middle. Like Rdio for desktop computers, these settings are displayed as dots in the radio playing view.
Other additions in this update are more subtle, but still noteworthy. In search results, filters allow you to easily view results for artists, albums, songs, playlists, people, or labels – a handy change to simplify the process of finding exactly what you're looking for. In the Collection view on the iPad, you can browse with a new (and admittedly visually more appealing) album view, and both the iPhone and iPad apps get the ability to sort Collection by Recently Added – useful to get a quick overview of the artists, albums, or songs you've been adding to your account lately.1 In the Stations area, Rdio for iOS can now start artist-only stations, just like the Mac app.
I'm a big fan of Rdio's recent work on UI design and stations. Rdio has been looking like an iOS 7-ready app for quite a few months now, thanks to a great use of blurs and music artworks as backgrounds – a design choice that is in line with iOS 7's focus on deference and user content. In Stations, I'm impressed by the accuracy of the “Your FM” algorithm and the way it manages to regularly bring up songs that it knows I'll like. I can't wait to see what Rdio will do with the actual iOS 7, and I'm curious to see if they will (finally) bring back standard Recommendations, which briefly showed up for me, but then disappeared.
You can get the latest Rdio for iOS here.
Rdio has always allowed you to play a mix of songs based on what you or your friends are listening to in their collections. Today, Rdio has updated their website and mobile apps with vast improvements to stations, allowing you to instantly listen to stations surrounding artists, songs, and genres.
Everything is a station
Rdio's Stations is a response to both Spotify Radio and iTunes Radio. Drawing from a library of 20 million songs, Rdio hopes to turn anything into a custom Station. Your favorite pop radio song? That band you can't stop listening to? By visiting Stations in the sidebar on your mobile device or desktop, you're instantly greeted with a search bar and collections of music by your friends, stuff that's in heavy rotation, and popular artists and genres. And no matter where you are in Rdio, you can also select songs and artists to make a station out of them as well.
Just like the music player, the Stations Player puts album art front and center over a blurred background that provides some contrast for the scrubber and other controls. New to the Stations Player are like and dislike buttons that let you vote on your favorite tracks.
It's about you (FM)
You FM is the biggest new thing here, which is Rdio's way of curating stations based on what you do across your social networks. Rdio says they'll look at who you follow on Twitter, things you like on Facebook, and things you thumbs up in Rdio to create Rdio stations of all your favorite songs and "related tracks." So if you follow Nine Inch Nails and have your Twitter account hooked into Rdio you'll hear a lot more Reznor in your Stations mixes.
It's also about your friends
Then there's your friends. There's a People tab in Stations that's supposed to highlight what your friends are listening to, which is basically their 'You FM' stuff. It's the previous implementation on steroids. You'll also find Stations in there like Pitchfork FM and Rolling Stone FM if you want indie or Top 40 Stations.
So if you like radio here you go
Rdio can be downloaded for free from the App Store, but requires a monthly subscription to use. Check out Rdio's pricing here and read more about their Stations update on their blog page.