I’ve spent the last month or so reviewing the premium subscription services from several music streaming services. I tried MOG, Rhapsody, Rdio, and Spotify in that order. I ruled out online radio only services (Pandora, Last.fm, and the upcoming iTunes Radio) as I wanted to listen to specific playlists and specific albums in their entirety. I did skip Google All Access as one of my requirements something that runs native on iOS (not some cheesy HTML5 Web App).
Over the course of the trials, I discovered a TON of new music. I found artists that I may have heard once or twice in the past that are now some of my favorite artists. I tried to challenge the libraries with college tunes from 20 years ago. I put them through the paces on iPhone, iPad, Android, Web interfaces, and downloadable PC and Mac apps.
I found value in every service and it’s up to your required features and your required library. However, the two clear winners were Spotify and Rdio from a feature, device, library, and ease of use standpoint.
From a pure library and artist perspective, Spotify wins, but by a very narrow margin. That may change if one of them gets some of the hold-outs (Led Zeppelin for example). As an example, there was music by obscure country artists (Cooter Graw) on Spotify, but Rdio had some obscure R&B / Hip Hop. Both have great International and Indie selection.
From a social standpoint, they both have good features, but again Spotify wins. Rdio is playing catch-up as Spotify started as a social music service and Rdio started as a streaming service with features to find new music in the forefront. An example of this is the ease of “following” friends or artists on Facebook on Spotify where in Rdio you can follow playlists, but the friend features aren’t there.
Both scrobble to Last.fm. The Spotify PC app has some nice Last.fm integration for discovering music, but I only used this feature when at my PC.
The deciding factor for me was the cross device play queue. The only service to have this one nailed was Rdio. This is very important as I like to listen to playlists from NPR, GOOD Music, Buzzfeed, Rolling Stone, etc. While listening to those very long playlists I may want to move downstairs and play on my stereo via AirPlay or hop in the car and listen from my iPhone. Even more common I would be listening to a playlist and would hear something I really liked, it is very easy to add that artist or that album to your play queue (via the Play Later feature). At certain times, my play queue was 20 or 30 albums long. With Spotify your queue does not sync between devices (there are some obscene work around published on the Web) so this function is very difficult to duplicate. This limitation of Spotify actually made some of their other features (like the Last.fm integration into their desktop app) less valuable.
While Rdio could could improve the feature by allowing you to pause on one device and pick up exactly where you left off (mid-song) on another, that’s a wish for the future. Currently if you pause on one device you start back at the beginning of the current song on another.
I made the decision today and subscribed to Rdio.