About a year ago, after a lengthy and tiresome setup process, I became a paying subscriber to Spotify, the world’s biggest music streaming service which has still not been launched in South Africa. It was immediately apparent to me that streaming was going to change the way we listen to music, and was here to stay.
But South African consumers have been slow in adopting streaming, largely because they have been conditioned to preserve their bandwidth, especially those who don’t have uncapped DSL at home, but also because the big names in music streaming – Spotify and Rdio – have been unavailable.
Until now, local consumers have had to endure unattractive and, frankly, cheap knockoffs. That’s now changed with the launch of Rdio, the second biggest music streaming service after Spotify.
Rdio’s jukebox consists of more than 20m songs and, for the most part, I had no trouble finding the songs I was looking for. Simfy, one of the more popular music streaming services in South Africa also has a library of 20m songs. Both services cost the same — R25/month for unlimited streaming within your browser and the desktop app, and R60/month for unlimited Web and mobile streaming with the ability to sync songs for offline listening. Similarities, however, end there.
Rdio is gorgeous. The entire experience is a pleasure to use. The user interface is clean and uncluttered, stressing big, beautiful album artwork. The focus on artwork not only makes the app prettier, but also adds to the experience and usability. It’s a lot easier to scan through album artwork found in your “Collection”, a dedicated area for your favourite songs and albums, than to scroll through an endless line of words. Songs also feel more valuable, over the almost ephemeral outlook on music other services have, mainly because of their focus on playlists and individual songs.
Other than the design, the social integration and music discovery is one of Rdio’s best features. You can follow friends, browse their Collection and find all of their recent activity in a dedicated tab. You can also see when they’re online, and what they’re listening to at that particular moment. Between Heavy Rotation, a highlight of what the Rdio community has been listening to, and Recent Activity, it’s very easy to find a good album that you’ve never heard before.
I’ve even found myself enjoying music a lot more than when I used Spotify. And that’s why I’ve switched. I believe it does have a lot more potential than something like Simfy in becoming a household name. Although subscribing to a streaming service is probably still an impractical option for the majority of South Africans, there is no doubt this is the future. For those who already have the resources to stream music, Rdio is without a doubt the best music streaming service available in South Africa right now. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media