There are very few Internet services that I’m actively an evangelist for – Twitter is one, because I’ve met so many cool people through it. The other that I’m always trying to convert people to is Rdio, which is a music streaming service. First off, yes, it’s like Spotify. I can’t actually say that it’s better than Spotify because I’ve never used Spotify. (Back when I was making the switch to not owning my music, Spotify required Facebook log-in and that was a deal breaker for me.)
What I love about Rdio is that it actually does sharing in a way that’s helpful rather than just gratuitous, and it leads to an element of spontaneity and discovery. Rdio has a follower system – it’s much like Twitter, where there are big name bands but you can also follow friends. It’s not reciprocal (yay!), and you can follow people’s playlists without following them personally.
So why does this matter? Well, in some ways, it doesn’t. Knowing that my friend in Portland is listening to Band of Horses is pretty useless to me. However, Rdio shows which of your friends have listened to a given album next to the title, and puts together a collection of the most listened to as your home page (heavy rotation).
Using Heavy Rotation, I can discover new music based on a shared understanding of my friends’ musical taste. For example, I know that if 5 or more of the people I follow have listened to an album, I’ll probably love it – the number of people who share my musical taste on my list is high enough so that’s just how it works. I can also triangulate a guess on whether I’ll like a band or not based on which friends have listened to it. That’s pretty cool.
If a new album comes out and all of my friends are listening to it, I see that as soon as I open up the application. Rdio does try to do notifications of new albums, but since the catalog is always getting backfilled, the heavy rotation method of notification is better.
There are some downsides to using Rdio exclusively. Unlike Spotify, it doesn’t allow you to upload tracks – and there are still some gaps in its catalog (Metric’s Fantasies is the biggest one, After The Disco is my current source of frustration). If you want to own your own music, obviously, this isn’t a good solution.
But I listen to so much more music now that I did before I started using Rdio, and I discover so many more new bands – which I tend to go see live (it integrates with Last.FM and Songkick). So hey, chalk this up to another win for all-you-can-eat streaming services.