Spotify’s direct integration with Facebook from day one might have ushered it to the top of the modern listener’s audio rankings, but it isn’t the only game in town. Rdio, a direct competitor to Spotify that has been in the US since August, 2010, just launched a redesign of their web and desktop clients. The focus of the redesign is segmented into three sections: your collection, Rdio’s collection, and your friends collection.
It makes sense, it really does. The update promises the three S’s of improvement: speed, stability, and social. In my use of it, it certainly delivers. And in comparison to Spotify’s drab interface, it might be coming out ahead. Before Spotify had Facebook integration, and subsequently released apps for its environment, it had no avenues for music discovery. You were caught between the massive Spotify collection and the potential of building your own. All the songs were there but veiled behind the enormity of carving out your own library. Rdio had a social, discovery element that’s tied to the service, but the combination of Spotify’s connection to Facebook and Rdio’s own buggy, slow software held it back.
Now things are a little different. As a subscriber to both Rdio and Spotify, I’m constantly comparing the two in hopes that one will far surpass the other and I can happily use it exclusively. With this update to Rdio, I might be one step closer to finally making a decision.
Looks aren’t everything but they certainly make a difference. Speed is probably the next most important quality, followed by the selection of their library. I love my personal music collection. It’s massive, hand-built, and entirely personal. I liken it to the stacks of books that line my shelves, or my collection of vinyl LPs. While today, I do 80 percent of my reading off a screen, my Library holds 95 percent of my affection. That being said, I hate iTunes and most every other software client that allows me to manage my digital music collection. It’s bloated, slow, and ugly. Further, to keep up with this radically evolving music scene I can’t buy every album I want to listen to. Services like Rdio and Spotify offer that flexibility.
For convenience, I put up with Spotify’s godawful interface, and I used to put up with Rdio’s instability and general wonkyness. I’ve been using Rdio’s redesign all day and I’m honestly pleased. Rdio’s main collection sits in the middle of the environment bookended by your playlists on the left side and your social connections on the right side. When I upgraded my account, only about fifteen of my facebook and twitter connections were using Rdio, so following them isn’t entirely useful yet. But in addition to individual accounts, Labels and brands have accounts so you can track the tastemakers. This ability is significantly more useful then being bombarded with a ticker stream of what all my Facebook friends are listening to. In fact, music data in the Facebook stream has proven to be most entirely useless.
Rdio offers a better way to blend social in a non-irritating way. It cuts down on noise, and pumps up the signal. As Spotify begins to cut off its free users, they’ll begin to look for alternatives. I remain on the fence, but my allegiances strengthen every day.