Spotify and Rdio seem to be two of the leading contenders for on-demand music. Of course, there’s also Rhapsody, MOG, and a number of others, but it seems most of my friends are using either Spotify or Rdio.

And by “most of my friends are using either…” I mean I have one friend who uses Rdio, and the rest use Spotify (to my knowledge).

Here’s the thing. I like Rdio better. I have my complaints about both services, but ultimately Rdio’s features work better for me.  But there’s one thing Spotify has that Rdio doesn’t, and it makes me wish I liked Spotify better: Free Music.

Not all of my friends can afford the $9.99/month pricetag that comes with Rdio (and with Spotify Premium), and one of my favorite features of both Rdio and Spotify is the social aspect. Maybe it’s egotistical, but I love the live-updating “Recently Listened” feed on Facebook.

Electric President = new discovery from Rdio!

And I love the idea that I can easily share my music likes and discoveries with my friends.

BUT, I also like convenience. And if a friend clicks a link to one of these songs, it opens through Rdio, and most of my friends don’t use Rdio. Whereas with most of my other friends, their music-feed is filled with Spotify songs, and if I click that… I can listen. For free (for a while).

But the problem is… I like Rdio better for a number of reasons, and I actually dislike a number of things about Spotify.

But I want to share music with my friends more easily!
So, ultimately, I’m hoping someone will prove me wrong. Someone will read this and say “Rdio is NOT better than Spotify, and I can prove it!” Someone will look at all the things I like in Rdio and show me where to find them in Spotify, and someone will look at all the things I don’t like in Spotify and show me how to fix them.

At least that’s my hope.

So, here we go.

Why I like Rdio:

Better visuals:

Rdio’s online and desktop interface are set up to be really visually pleasing. This bubble diagram shows my most played artists – the more I’ve played them, the bigger the bubble. (You can also select “Most Songs” in this diagram, which shows larger bubbles for artists who have the most music in your collection.)

Since I have an occasional tendency to be in the mood for a certain album for long periods of time, they’re a little disproprotionate – for example, I haven’t listened to much Glee Cast stuff for a while, but a while back that was all I was listening to.

Still, I love the way this looks – and it’s the default view when I come to my collection (library). Obviously you can search for artists that haven’t made it to bubble-status yet, but I think the bubbles are a great way to show you what you’re listening to the most, and it’s an easy way to return to some of your most-loved music.


Beyond the bubbles (sounds like a cheesy B-movie), I prefer Rdio’s interface in an overall sense. One of my frustrations with Spotify is how incredibly tiny everything is. When I search for Adele on Rdio, I get relevant results in an easy-to-read format:

Results for Artists, Albums, Songs, Playlists, and People (though I haven’t ever made use of the final two) are easily displayed.

Adele’s artist page is the first result, displayed prominently with her photo, her name, and some info about how many albums/songs she has available on Rdio.

The same search on Spotify returns… less desirable results. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

Ultimately the visuals thing is one of my major reasons for liking Rdio. It’s much easier to navigate because it presents results in an easy-to-view format.


A couple other examples, for (eventual) comparison’s sake:




Below the bubbles (another B-movie, perhaps the sequel!) there’s the list of Artists, which is super easy to navigate, and pretty visually swell. This shows only albums/artists you’ve added to your collection (library), so while Aerosmith has more than 2 albums, those are the only ones I’ve added for easy access.







Another example of Rdio’s awesome visual layout. The “Heavy Rotation” view shows which albums have been receiving the most plays from me, my network, or “everyone” (all of Rdio), depending on the view you select. This screenshot is from the desktop-app, but the web interface is virtually identical.


That brings us to the other, really important thing that Rdio has that Spotify doesn’t: a web interface.

For my $9.99/mo I can access Rdio on my laptop, my desktop, my phone, AND on any other computer I might be using. In fact, initially, Rdio only had a web interface. After logging in at, I can access ANY music available on Rdio, my collection, my playlists, etc. from any computer – without having to download anything.

While this might not seem particularly useful for folks who generally use their own computers, it’s great for me when I have to use the computer labs on campus, a friend’s computer, or another public computer that doesn’t allow downloading. While I could use the app on my iPhone, I don’t always have the best signal inside buildings, and streaming music eats your battery like whoa.

Ultimately, that’s about it. I tremendously prefer the way that Rdio looks, and I like being able to access it on computers without downloading software.

So, what about Spotify is less cool than that? Let’s see.

Why I don’t like Spotify:

It is hideous.

The interface is not visually pleasing. It tries way too hard to look like the badass version of iTunes, which doesn’t have a spectacularly beautiful interface to begin with.

Searching for an artist returns an incredibly compact page of results:

Here we have our search for Adele again, and while some might appreciate an immediate list of songs to play, if I wanted a specific song, I’d search for a specific song!

So, up on the left side of the results page is this little picture of Adele, and a HUGE list of twenty plus artists all SMASHED into a tiny little space with a MIDDOT (bullet) to separate them.


This does not allow for easy searching. While Adele’s name is still the first result, it’s smashed right up next to the “Artists:” header for the search in like 11pt font. It is not pretty, easy to click, or even easy to find. The “artists results” section of the page almost looks like an ad banner, while the HUGE list of songs takes precedence.


Even the library is difficult to navigate. iTunes added cover-flow and album view for a reason!


To be fair, the first album listed here is my 99 relaxing songs (or something like that) that I got for free from Amazon forever ago, so generally you’d see more than one album per page. But the layout is still less than ideal and everything in Spotify is SO TINY.

If I had poor vision, I wouldn’t even be able to use the program at all!

There is virtually no white (well, black in this case) space in Spotify, and while it might seem neat that they’re effectively using all the space they have available… I’d much rather have some separation between elements.

To avoid redundancy, Spotify’s “Top Lists” section is pretty similar. It’s a little more visually appealing with 6 album covers spaced apart at the top of the list, but ultimately it’s, well, another list! Pictures are worth a thousand words, Spotify! Show me more album artwork!

The only section that seems to be moving in a decent direction is their “What’s New” page:



THERE’S the album artwork!

This is (sort of) what every page should look like. I don’t want to look at a huge list of songs, I want to see album covers, separation between elements, and easy to read text.



AND, they don’t have a web interface. Ultimately, though, I think it’s Spotify’s interface that bothers me the most. If it were easier to navigate, and less horrendously ugly, I’d be much more likely to consider it.

But Rdio’s not perfect either.

Why I don’t like Rdio:

Or, rather, why I do like Spotify:

Offline access!

Honestly, if Spotify’s interface weren’t so damn ugly and non-intuitive, this would probably be enough to make me switch.

Both Rdio and Spotify offer offline access on their mobile apps, but only Spotify offers offline access on the computer.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished that Rdio had this feature when I haven’t had Wi-Fi access on my laptop. Being able to sync songs for offline use is incredibly nice. I’m not sure why Rdio doesn’t offer this feature, or if they’re going to be offering it eventually, but it is a definite selling point for Spotify.



And yes, Spotify’s free access is another HUGE boon to Spotify’s general awesomeness.

As I was saying above, allowing users to access some music for free is a fantastic way to ensure that the social aspects of these music services can be utilized by everyone. I like that if I’m listening to music on Spotify, and someone spots something (pun intended) they like on my live feed, they can click and likely listen right away.

No questions; no money required. Easy.

And I like their social integration a bit better, too. Or at least the appearance of it. On the right side of Spotify, I’ve got an awesomely-huge list of all my Facebook friends who use Spotify, and I can easily check out what any of them have been listening to – all from my Spotify interface. Now that’s leveraging social networking. Impressive.

The bottom line:

So, ultimately – why do I use Rdio? Well, probably at least partially because Rdio was available first, and I’ve been using it since before Spotify was a twinkle in the USA’s eye.

But more importantly, I like using Rdio better than I like using Spotify. I find Spotify’s desktop interface incredibly cumbersome and not at all intuitively designed. Navigating Spotify is confusing, and while I’d probably get used to it eventually, I don’t want to get used to an ugly and poorly thought out interface. I want them to have a better one.

The web interface is important, too, but ultimately it’s the interface that does it for me. I could probably manage to do without Rdio’s web-access, but until Spotify tidies things up a bit, I’m not sold. Every time I even open Spotify, I cringe!

The offline access is really where I waver the most. This is a feature I would definitely utilize, and despite all my complaining about Spotify’s interface, I’m still tempted to make the switch, simply because of that (and the fact that friends could access songs I suggest for free). But the fact that I’ve been using Rdio so long ultimately makes me want to wait for Rdio to add the offline feature… which they hopefully will.

Until then, I guess it’s a toss up. Rdio still wins (barely) for me, but Spotify could easily be a contender with a few interface tweaks.

And if anyone can show me how to tweak that interface now… I’ll probably be sold.

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