Rdio vs. Spotify

Some many know me as a hardcore Rdio fan. I love the UI, appreciate their story, and have mostly been satisfied with the service.

Last year, Andy Baio wrote two articles comparing Rdio to Spotify. In both instances he concludes Rdio comes out slightly on top — their catalog is just a little bit better.

But, I’ve never been able to get the Blue Scholars or St. Germain on Rdio so I always questioned how the catalogs really compared. Yesterday, after scrapping my first hackathon project at 7:30 pm, I decided to use the Echonest API to answer my question once and for all. Which is better, Rdio or Spotify?

As it turns out, Spotify. By a landslide. Of the 92,343 songs I had time to pull down, 74,703 are available on Spotify and 56,988 are available on Rdio. Furthermore, Spotify had 21,370 songs that weren’t available on Rdio, whereas Rdio only had 3,655 songs that weren’t available on Spotify.

Plus Spotify has the Blue Scholars and St. Germain. Time to make a switch.


Zeke December 9, 2012 Reply

I’m really interested in people’s varying criteria for the “better” service. This week’s comparison on Ars Technica takes the complete opposite approach from yours, with 3 whole pages comparing functionality without even touching on the relative size of their libraries. Crazy!

I do think that “content is king,” rather than the UI or functionality around it, but the nature of subscription streaming services means that no service is going to have licenses for all the music I listen to. For me, that means I’m sticking with the features I prefer on Rdio, and falling back to digital locker services like Google Music or iTunes Match to take care of the digital distribution stragglers.

Daniel Bachhuber December 9, 2012 Reply

Oh neat, I’ll have to read that article.

To be honest, I think Spotify’s streaming technology is better too. I’ve heard this anecdotally from a few other sources, and experienced it on my own. I’m not as huge of a fan of Spotify’s UI, but a music service isn’t necessarily about that — it’s for listening to music. So that’s why I’m prioritizing the catalog.

jordangracey December 9, 2012 Reply

Very good read!
I tried the short trial for spotify premium a while back, and now I’m on a three month trial of Rdio premium, so I’m trying to compare a bit too!

Joost December 27, 2012 Reply

Interesting article. I landed here after trying to find out if Rdio also requires users to connect with a Facebook account in order to upload something as simple as a profile picture. Spotify does have that requirement and it is quite irritating for people who like to steer clear of Facebook. Not requiring a FB account for basic functionality would definitely be a USP for me.

Andy Baio December 28, 2012 Reply

Nice! What was your source for the list of 90k songs you were comparing for both services? The reason Rdio fared better in my two articles, I think, is because I was only looking at two types of songs: Billboard-charting pop singles and critically-adored albums. Both are categories that are very much at the top of the most-listened pile.

I’m sure that Spotify has the deeper catalog, but it’s very much a long tail — many more songs from the deep catalog, with much less mainstream selections. I’m a long-time Spotify subscriber myself, for what it’s worth.

Daniel Bachhuber December 28, 2012 Reply

Thanks! I discovered that Echonest’s API has Spotify and/or Rdio IDs in each song profile, if the song exists on the service. A little birdy told me Echonest receives periodic dumps of each service’s catalog to keep these IDs up to date. From there it was just a matter of writing one script to download artist names, and another script to download song profiles for each artist.

Not as sexy as comparing Billboard charts, but the project served its purpose. If you’re planning to do a follow-up article, I’d be really interested to learn more about the catalog acquisition process. I suppose it all boils down to deals with the record labels.

Nick B. February 1, 2013 Reply

St Germain albums are on Rdio. Go check and if you look at the message board for the albums, you’ll see comments dating back 7 months. How come the Echo Nest API didn’t tell you that?

Daniel Bachhuber February 1, 2013 Reply

How come the Echo Nest API didn’t tell you that?

Maybe I was using older data, not sure.

arparp February 21, 2013 Reply

Spotify is P2P, you get ‘better streaming’ at the cost of your computer being a zombie upload node for anything in your cache. I’m about to make the switch the other way.

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