Rdio Now Broadcasting to Everyone: Here's How it Stacks Up

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Streaming music site Rdio will exit its invite-only phase Tuesday morning, allowing anyone in the U.S. or Canada to sign up for its $5-per-month, all-you-can-stream Web subscription service or a $10-per-month plan that adds a mobile component. Along with granting wider access, the company formally announced support for Android devices in addition to previously-supported iPhones and BlackBerry devices, and revealed the addition of music from key indie distributor IODA to its catalog, which is now 7 million songs and growing.

It’s been two months since Rdio’s beta launch, with all four major record labels and indie aggregators including The Orchard and INgrooves on board since its early-June introduction. CEO Drew Larner wouldn’t say how many paying customers have signed up, nor would he discuss its conversion rate from free trials, but since the service is inherently heavily social, it’s apparent that Rdio is gaining some traction as play counts rise and playlists are shared. I’ve been using its Web service daily, and have lived with it on my iPhone for a couple of months. (Disclosure: I’m enjoying a free trial courtesy of Rdio.)

Rdio competes most directly with cloud-based rival MOG — which launched in December 2009, and added a mobile service for Android and iPhone last month — as well as legacy service Rhapsody and mobile-heavy Thumbplay. (If it ever launches in the U.S., the nowcomicallydelayed Spotify has surely lost potential paying customers to all of them.) I see Rdio sporting an edge in social features and seamless, pop up-free user interface, while MOG still sports a deeper catalog, better customizable radio, and a more feature-rich iPhone app. Rdio promises a revamp of its iPhone app soon (it’d help), and has already introduced more features for Android and BlackBerry handsets. MOG, it’s worth noting, has cleaned up most, if not all, of the glitches I reported in my last post about them; it’s also worth mentioning that MOG doesn’t yet support multitasking while Rdio does.

I’ve been fairly skeptical of the idea that cloud-based services will suddenly prompt people to rent music rather than own it, and have cited several reasons why the new services have left me a little cold. That said, Rdio has just addressed one of my concerns, adding gapless playback for albums whose tracks run together. It works (most of the time) during desktop playback only, but I’m told that mobile is next. While my gripe seemed nitpicky to some, this is actually a substantial differentiator for fans of classical and electronic music, prog-rock, and live albums, among others. Uninterrupted applause to Rdio for dealing with it; it’s passed my test already.

Even if the mobile versions are still a little clumsy at times, Rdio and MOG are inexpensive desktop options that reliably complement the music I already own, while offering superior experiences to free options like YouTube and Grooveshark. I still haven’t seen a service that has everything I want, but Rdio is a fine supplementary service, if not a replacement for music ownership. I’m still waiting for Apple and Google to make their moves in cloud music, but for an avid listener like me, at the very reasonable $5-per-month, all-you-can-stream price point for the desktop, it’d be hard to say Rdio isn’t worth it.

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