Friday Fun Link – Rdio

Like I suspect is the case for a lot of people who came of age in the 1980’s, I would spend hours making mix tapes when I was young – tapes featuring different artists, different themes, different moods.

At the time, mix tapes were created by dubbing favourite songs from your own small cassette collection, borrowing from friends or the library (which had an even more limited selection – I think Indian Head library had one of those cases that held 30 cassettes – and due to other borrowers, it was rarely full!) and of course, taping songs directly off the radio while listening to Casey Kasem and American Top 40.

In the 1990’s, computers started to come with CD burners.  That, plus the fact that I now had some disposable income due to summer jobs and student loans, meant I could afford to buy more and more CD’s and make more and more creative mixes – now on CD-R instead of cassette.  But I would often still buy CD’s with names like “Much Music Hits 1992” and “Ultimate #1’s of the Year” to maximize my still limited entertainment dollars.

So when Napster came out in the late 1990’s-early 2000’s, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  

All of a sudden, virtually every song I could think of (and many I wouldn’t normally have considered if I didn’t stumble across them – I still remember downloading a bunch of Russian folk songs which I never used in a mix and in fact, probably only gave a cursory listen one or two times) was available for free.

I didn’t have much money and knew what I was doing in a grey area but I remember thinking, “I would gladly give us the $20-$100 I spend on CD’s every month if there was a legal, comprehensive version of Napster available.”

A lot of music fans felt the same way but as usual, the record industry was locked into their old mode of thinking and it would take another decade and a half until they truly embraced digital.  There were a few attempts at creating subscription services (I think Napster even got bought out and turned into a subscription service after legal challenges shut it down).  But none had very extensive libraries and they were hampered by slow internet connections, convoluted pricing schemes and other complications.

The creation of the iTunes store was a watershed moment and if you haven’t read the Steve Jobs biography, it’s worth picking up for insight into how Jobs literally tricked the major labels into signing on to iTunes (“It’ll only be for Mac.  We’ll have DRM.  You have nothing to worry about.”)

More recently, the shift to cloud-based services hasn’t left the music industry untouched and there are a number of competing services that have sprung up to battle iTunes – Spotify, MOG, Grooveshark, etc.  Unfortunately, most of these aren’t available in Canada due to licensing restrictions (the music industry still hasn’t given up on some of their outmoded thinking.)

But I noticed a former classmate who’s now in Toronto would occasionally post tunes to his Facebook feed from a site called Rdio.  This is the same guy who introduced me to Twitter, Tumblr and numerous other sites that have become part of my regular Internet experience so I tend to pay attention to his finds.

I went to Rdio and lo and behold, it was a streaming music service that was the equal of those other highly touted sites like Spotify and perhaps even better.  They give you a free, no credit card needed seven day trial to begin which is a great amount of time to fully explore the site (and get you hooked on what they offer!)

Then, for only $5/month (for desktop access) or $10/month (for desktop and mobile access), you can have unlimited access to the millions of songs in their catalogue.  The best part of the site is how fully cross-referenced it is – you can click on pretty much any song, album or artist and see other albums by the same artist or the full track list of a specific album or whatever.  For this reason, I find the site design highly intuitive with these options plus a persistent player embedded on the page that continues playing no matter where else you may find yourself clicking around to.  (There’s also a new design on the horizon that’s even better though not all kinks are quite worked out yet.)

Even better than the design – and perhaps the main selling point after the massive amount of content – is that you can add any song to a playlist (read that as “mix tape” of your own creation), you can subscribe to other people’s playlists and you can even collaborate on other peoples’ or your own playlists if you choose.

I joined and it was like I was 14 again (in terms of the join of making mix tapes) and 21 (in terms of finally having the simple yet limitless selection of Napster)!

I probably haven’t come across such an addictive site since seeing Pinterest which, although I don’t spend a lot of time on myself, I do appreciate for the loyalty it inspires in its most hardcore fans.  

That’s an apt analogy in another way as both Pinterest and Rdio, at their core, are about collecting (as opposed to “sharing” which is the core of sites like Facebook and Twitter – an important distinction.)

On Rdio, you can collect your favourite songs, albums and have them available at any time.  I now listen to Rdio at work, when I’m out for my lunch hour walk around Wascana Lake and at home.

Of course, there are some noticeable gaps – The Beatles being an obvious one, likely due to their deal with Apple but other big name bands as well.  Some bands who’ve moved labels may have some of their albums but not all available on Rdio.  Or some that aren’t licensed for Canada might show up in Rdio searches but only allow 30 second previews (like iTunes) or be greyed out completely.  

But these are all minor quibbles – especially since they do seem to have many of the small Canadian independent artists I searched for, all of my Britpop favourites and I can usually find a cover or sound-a-like version if I desperately need to have a certain Beatles or AC/DC song in a playlist.

If you’re a music fan (and who isn’t?), I encourage you to join!  You won’t regret it!  (They even have Russian folk songs – as well as comedy albums, kids music, some kids books and tons more.  Plus you don’t even have to take up space on my hard drive if you want to listen to any of these!)

Comments 2

  1. John B wrote:

    I read books on my Kobo Vox and it comes with the RDIO app, but I’m cheap and avoid subscription services. Instead, I use the tunein app from tunein.com

    Posted 28 Apr 2012 at 8:30 am
  2. HeadTale wrote:

    Tune-in is great too (I often use it to listen to out-of-market NHL playoff games!) But I like Rdio because I can listen to pretty much any song I can think of on demand. I’m cheap too (!) but I think it’s worth $10 a month for that compared to what I’ve spent on records, cassettes and CD’s in my life! I do wish Fred had all of his albums on Rdio – I think there are only four or five right now.

    Posted 29 Apr 2012 at 1:44 pm

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 3

  1. From Head Tale - Music Monday – “I’m a Pilsner drinking, whitetail hunting, purple burning, stubble jumping, slough bogging, prairie dogging, rod and reeling, snowmobiling, genuine big ski sun of a gun from Saskatchewan.” on 23 Apr 2012 at 7:08 pm

    […] == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}I knew of Tim Hus before but discovered this song due to the magic of Rdio.  Not too often I hear my hometown name-checked in a song!  (“Moose Jaw and Indian Head/It […]

  2. From Head Tale - Music Monday – “I’m a Pilsner drinking, whitetail hunting, purple burning, stubble jumping, slough bogging, prairie dogging, rod and reeling, snowmobiling, genuine big ski sun of a gun from Saskatchewan.” on 24 Aug 2012 at 1:49 pm

    […] knew of Tim Hus before but discovered this song due to the magic of Rdio.  Not too often I hear my hometown name-checked in a song!  (“Moose Jaw and Indian Head/It […]

  3. From Head Tale - Rdio Is Being Bought Out and Discontinued. (Fuck) on 17 Nov 2015 at 10:44 pm

    […] a streaming music site I’ve belonged to for about three years and where I’ve spent hours and hours of my life adding albums and songs to my library, […]

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