Posted by Jamie Forestell
After you have read our article, be sure to check below as we will have some swag to giveaway. Leave a comment and also give Rdio a free try. You may even decide to remove the iPod icon on your iPhone and replace it with the Rdio application.
Rdio launched in August, 2010 in both the USA and Canada founded by Janus Friis with Niklas Zennström. What is Rdio and does it work? We had the opportunity to speak with both Carter Andersen, COO of Rdio Inc, and Drew Larner, CEO of Rdio Inc. for an exclusive interview and we will answer that question and more.
Tek Tok: How do you pronounce Rdio and is there any meaning to the letters?
Carter: It is pronounced R-Dee-Ooo and there is not really a meaning the word Rdio. The name is always the hardest thing and it took us a long time to come up with something. Rdio is meant to connote Radio. We also wanted to find a 4 letter word as it is easier to remember and easier to type.
Tek Tok: What sets Rdio apart from other streaming music services ?
Carter: Well, we are available in Canada. I believe it is the first and only on demand music streaming service in Canada. We launched simultaneously in Canada and the USA in August of 2010. We firmly believe in getting the product right before just talking about it. We have been doing a lot of fine tuning in the background, listening to our users very carefully and seeing what they want, what is missing, and what is broken. Rdio is the only music service out there, that was built from the ground up with the notion of social music discovery. No matter what platform you are dialing in from, it is the core piece of DNA, it is front and center of this powerful stream of new relevant music that people you follow are listening to. The most resounding piece of feedback we have heard is that it is taking all the effort out of finding new stuff. We are hearing a lot of comments like, I have discovered more music in the past 2 days or the past 2 weeks, then I have in the past 2 decades. This is one of the main reasons why we started this thing.
Tek Tok: Is there a chance the social networking aspect will be expanded in the future?
Carter: We’ve taken great steps forward in terms of being able to share outside of Rdio. It is very easy to share within of Rdio, almost automatic. It is also very easy to share outside of Rdio with Facebook and Twitter. I believe Rdio and Ping are the only ones that are natively built into twitter. If you tweet an Rdio song or playlist, or an album, our embedded player pops up on the right hand panel of Twitter. You will start to see more of that as we just launched our API recently which will allow software developers that want to integrate music into their game or service, they can now do so and also gets paid to do so.
Tek Tok: One of the features that we noticed is called “Sync to Mobile”. This feature seems to download music for offline listening. Are their any limitations or restrictions? Is this offline music encrypted on the device?
Carter: “Sync to Mobile” is probably one of the most important features in Rdio. It is definitely one of the biggest Ah-Ha moments, when subscribers realize they can save as much and as many songs/albums/playlists to the Blackberry/Android/iOS devices as their internal memory will allow them to. And they have done that for less then the price of an album every month, or about .30 per day. People are very liberated about that and we are hearing feedback that people are actually deleting their iTunes library. There are no limitations for offline storage. If you have 32GB of storage, you can store 32GB of music offline. All of this music can be played locally when you do not have data connectivity, or you are not connected to any wifi hotspots so in the plane, or the subway, you can now play whatever you have saved locally to the phone.
Tek Tok: We noticed that you are partnered with Sonos, a manufacturer of multi room wireless speaker systems. Can you expand on how that benefits Rdio?
Carter: Sonos is a fantastic device. If you do not have Sonos, I highly recommend it, I just got one in my home. It seamlessly allows you to access all the music you have bought, whether it be from iTunes, or Windows MediaPlayer, as well as the 8 million tracks within Rdio. You can control what music is playing in each room that you have a Sonos speaker. I think the exciting thing with Rdio coming to Sonos, was it was the first implementation of a social music discovery experience on Sonos. For the first time you can not only access music, you can access your friends and the people you follow and see the music they are playing most and their collections, so we have brought the whole social thing to the Sonos platform.
Tek Tok: Do you see an opportunity to expand Rdio? (pre-bundled into TV’s, smart phones, etc.)
Carter: Yes, absolutely. We are having all those conversations right now, and we are going to have a whole series of very exciting announcements this year, both in terms of new partners, new platforms, new devices, and new territories as well. We have covered most of the main smartphone platforms today such as iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile 7, and in the home, Sonos and Roku. And soon to be more in the home, and soon to be in Automobiles, Google Chrome Store, Amazon App Store.
Tek Tok: Is Boxee Box one of those coming soon?
Carter: Not yet. Hopefully soon.
Tek Tok: How can independent artists get their music on Rdio?
Carter: Right now we are working through the main aggregators, and we are working on a self service area for artists who do not have label coverage, so they will be able to do that themselves and get paid themselves.
Tek Tok: Are you going to offer family plans?
Carter: I cannot comment on that right now but watch our site very soon.
Tek Tok: What was the determining factor to supply your service to Canada?
Carter: We just assumed we were going to launch in both Canada and USA since day one. What we may have done differently then other services did, was prioritize Canada and we got it done. To my knowledge, it was not inordinately difficult to get the rights to come into Canada.
Tek Tok: Are there any plans to expand Rdio outside of Canada and USA?
Carter: We are working on a localization engine that will help us roll out very quickly to places where English is not spoken.
Tek Tok: How will Amazon and the Cloudplayer affect Rdio?
Carter: First of all, Amazon is a fantastic company, one of my favorites. I have not yet played around with the cloud service just launched. I think it is fantastic for people who have spent a lot of money on music. You need to be able to hold on to those songs, that you bought with your hard earned money somehow, and for those people, you can now pull everything up to the cloud and access it anywhere. Rdio also does that. Our desktop application matches pretty quickly within a few seconds, it looks at your iTunes or your windows mediaplayer or the music you have on your desktop, and anything that we have a license to stream, we automatically add it into your Rdio collection so you can access it from anywhere. The main point here is that more people have more and more connected devices in their lives, and it does not make logical sense for you to have multiple external hard drives to manage all of your collections on all your various devices. Going forward we are getting to a point that it only makes sense to be able to access all your music or videos for a set monthly fee, and pull it down from whatever device or platform you happen to be on.
Tek Tok: In the Facebook app for the iPhone, the integration does not seem to offer the ability to share current songs, or albums. Will this be added moving forward?
Carter: It is definitely coming. All the mobile clients are work in progress and all those things will be baked in.
Tek Tok: We have noticed when streaming Rdio there appears to be no compression, so each song appears to be between 3MB and 5MB. Given the bandwidth restrictions being imposed in Canada and the effect this has had with Netflix, will there be an option to change the streaming quality to lower bandwidth consumption?
Carter: I have been following the Netflix issues closely as well and yes, we will also be adding more controls to lower your bandwidth cost. The biggest cost saving is when you use Sync to Mobile to store your selections offline, so you do not need to stream any of the content and you will not be racking up data.
We also had the chance to talk to Drew Larner, CEO of Rdio and we had a few more questions about how Rdio entered into Canada.
Tek Tok: Can you give us the background on Rdio and how you became involved with the application?
Drew: I got involved about 2 years ago when the founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström wanted to get back into music. They asked me to get involved with the label deals and then two months into Rdio, I was asked to take over as CEO.
Tek Tok: What types of difficulty did you endure bringing Rdio into Canada?
Drew: I would like to say that it was this painful experience, but it really wasn’t. This question comes in the context what the guys at Pandora said about getting into Canada and the big difference is that we are an on demand service which means our functionality is very different, and much more robust. You can listen to what you want with Rdio, and not just currated radio which is what Pandora is. We have direct deals with the labels, and we made a deal with the local licensing in terms of the publishing.
Tek Tok: If a user cancels Rdio and decides to come back months later, is the collection still kept or would they be required to rebuild their collection?
Drew: That is a good question. When a user does cancel, the account remains active you just cant stream full tracks. You would be able to stream 30 second clips. Once you come back, you can regain your collection.
Tek Tok: We have noticed there is not yet a native iPad (tablet) application. Can we expect one soon?
Drew: I do not have an exact date for you, but it is something we are working on. The iPhone app does work on the iPad in the meantime.
Tek Tok: How do you think Cloud based music service will impact Rdio (Amazon, Google)?
Drew: It is tough to say. I would be naive if I said that we were not focused on that but I feel the cloud service is very different from what we are doing in the sense that it is a subscription based locker service which is for the music you have purchased and resident on your hard drive, as opposed to having 8 million songs that you can access anywhere, that also has a very robust social networking element.
Tek Tok: How does Rdio feel about future competitors that enter into Canada?
Drew: I think that getting there early was a good thing as it gave us a foot hole to get people on board with what we are doing and our product is very superior.
Tek Tok: How does Rdio feel about the proposed “Apple Tax”?
Drew: Its a real issue. I have been having conversations with various people in the industry, that hopefully things maybe changing, but until we hear otherwise, this is something we will have to face and deal with. From what I understand, those fees are not going to be rolled out until June, so right now we are not subject to them. This will be really problematic for us if indeed this does take affect, as we cannot support that kind of fee off the top from a financial standpoint.
That wraps up our interview. Stay tuned for a podcast recording of our interview and please check out Rdio! You will be glad you did. We also have some swag to giveaway, including two free 90 day accounts!! We will be selecting random comments and will announce the winners via email. (Swag includes Rdio t-shirts, mugs, stickers, reuseable bags)