Representatives of the music subscription service Rdio recently participated in the Radio Interactive Conference to offer insight into the current state and future of streaming music services — while streaming music has grown in popularity since its introduction, many users are still unsure of how it works and investors aren’t certain if the benefits outweigh the negatives.
According to the official Canadian Music Week website, the two-and-a-half day networking event included an audience of music directors, program directors, presidents, on-air talent, and sales executives. Scott Bagby, Vice President of strategic and international partnerships at Rdio, was on hand for Radio Interactive’s Panel on Social Radio to discuss the landscape of digital music in Canada.
According to a blog post on Canada.com, Rdio refers to themselves as the alternative to CDs, iTunes and music piracy — Bagby explains that perhaps one of the greatest challenges of streaming music services is avoiding piracy by negotiating the rights to songs before they are leaked. Rdio did not return TicketNews’ requests for further comment.
“People will consume music how they want to consume music,” says Bagby. “You either provide it to them and get paid for it and provide it in a way they want — or they will find another alternative.”
Rdio, created by Skype and Kazaa co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, launched in both Canada and the U.S. in August 2010 and has since grown to expand their social media integration and provide users with improved music discovery. Rdio currently has more than 15 million songs available for streaming, according to a March 2012 announcement at the SXSW music, film, and interactive conference and festival. Rdio competes with popular music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify.
According to a March 13, 2012 article on Billboard.biz, Rdio announced at the SXSW festival that they would make changes to their music subscription service, giving their interface a new look and providing users with additional social features — updates include a bar on the right side of the page that shows which friends are using Rdio and provides an easy way to share music. Other social features allow users to easy see their own playlists and friends’ playlists, as well as see what friends are listening to in real time and share playlists with a specific friend by simply dragging playlists onto their username. Rdio also suggests other users to become friends with based on listening choices.
In March 2012, Rdio announced the creation of an application for Canadian Facebook users that will link a Canadian user’s Rdio history with their Facebook timeline. According to a March 22, 2012 article on Billboard.biz, the company became the first major streaming service to introduce an app for the Facebook Timeline in Canada.
Besides Grooveshark, Rdio is one of the only streaming services available to Canadian music listeners. A March 22, 2012 blog post on Canada.com discusses freelance consultant and spokesperson Casie Stewart’s first-hand experience with the lack of alternative digital music options available to Canadian residents. Stewart, who is a former spokesperson for companies like Pepsi Canada, Puma Social, and Virgin America, explained at the Radio Interactive panel how she tried out Spotify while in the U.S., only to find the service ended upon returning to Canada – Spotify is not available to Canadian users and as of October 2011 has no plans to launch their service in the country.
While Rdio may be in a unique position among its peers as one of the few of its genre available in Canada, the music subscription service is still forced to deal with the harsh realities of a fairly new digital service and the challenges that come with not owning the rights for much of the music they play.
TicketNews recently discussed the landscape of online music streaming services after the popular streaming service Spotify announced that they would ask for funding based on the belief that there company is worth between $3.5 and $4 billion. Investors are hesitant to offer up funding due to the fact that Spotify lacks ownership of their music — the company must therefore pay royalty fees for each song play and may not be able to convert enough free users to paid users in order to make up for lost revenue.
While the logistics of these services still have a long way to go in terms of keeping users happy while still generating revenue, there are definite benefits involved with the service. The Canada.com blog post discusses how Chris Wiltsee of RootMusic, who was another guest in attendance at the Radio Interactive panel, believes there are great benefits involved with streaming music for artists and music listeners — artists and writers are earning royalties without the pirating of tracks and users are able to easily listen to their favorite songs or albums without the risk of developing a virus on their computer.
“We’re all in the industry so we get it,” says Bagby in a recent Billboard.biz interview. “It’s not all new but as a whole, the majority of people don’t know what streaming services are or the benefits of it or how to use it so what I’m looking for more than anything else, and at least for the rest of the year, is how do people come to know about streaming services and the benefit of streaming services in general.”