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Pretty Good Hat

Rdio, Access & Ownership

Rdio got a lot of play this week with the launch of version 2 of its mobile app. Like Federico Viticci, I have always preferred Rdio’s orientation to albums and collections to Spotify’s playlist-centered organization, and Rdio. I’ve used and enjoyed it for a year or so now, though my listening time has decreased in the past months as I’ve listened to podcasts more, and the new release has prompted me to clean up some dormant playlists and crufty to-play queue. I’m intrigued by the syncing between the mobile and desktop app, and wonder if it’s a route to sending music to AirPlay speakers or the AppleTV (natively, rather than through AirFoil, which does work but feels fiddly) – but, in a first attempt, the mobile app doesn’t play successfully via AirPlay at all, just reverts to the local speaker every time I try. So that may be a step back, though otherwise the update is really nice, visually and functionally.

I do wish Rdio had a “favorite” action that could push to As-is, I have a sort of favorites playlist that is easy enough to add tracks to, and while this helps keep track of things I like, it doesn’t quite push the button in the same way.

In another discussion of Rdio, Shawn Blanc notes that it has fully replaced his regular music purchases. It largely has for me, too; previously I happily subscribed to eMusic for about five years before trying them both together for maybe six months. The long term trend in my eMusic usage was basically that I wasn’t using it much – I was wasting my download credits – in part because at the time I was using a Droid X, and syncing my iTunes library was just a lot of work, so the collection match and streaming to mobile in Rdio was a big bonus.

But Rob Weychert’s thoughts on Rdio (via Shawn’s post) nicely makes an observation on the converse:

Rather than investing in one album, I’ve invested in all the albums, which is the same as investing in none of them. If something doesn’t grab me right away, I don’t have an incentive to return to it, which limits my repeat exposure to only the music with the most superficial rewards. And even that stuff is quickly overcome by the newer and shinier stuff constantly spraying from Rdio’s fire hose.

In addition to being a wonderfully data-driven consideration of his use of the service, I think this is insightful and reflects the downside of the otherwise-very-appealing-and-resonant “access, not ownership” theme. So lately, when I really like an album, I buy it outright. Whatever streaming service is around in a few years can’t terminate that license and take the CD off my shelf; meanwhile I can actually see and rediscover (some of) my collection of music and be thereby prompted to perhaps reward myself by listening to it.