We were a few weeks off with the prediction that Rdio would be launching in the U.K. — but only a few. In the early hours of Thursday morning European time, the music streaming service quietly rolled out in Britain and France.
The offering is pretty familiar: Rdio is delivering the same web-based streaming service as it does elsewhere. It looks like there have been some local additions to the catalog, but there are a few touches that suggest localization of the service itself has not been a serious priority — signup, for example, uses American-style date format rather than European one, which feels a little off.
The big story, of course, is the competition with Spotify. The unannounced arrival takes the San Francisco startup directly onto its London-headquartered rival’s home turf, nearly a year after the European startup did the reverse by launching in America.
However, Rdio — which already launched in Germany earlier this year — may feel a certain sense of familiarity with its new surroundings: the service was started by Skype co-founder Janus Friis, a Dane who is domiciled in London.
On the surface, Rdio’s rollout seems to follow pretty much the same pattern as its big rival: premium subscriptions cost £4.99 or £9.99 per month ($ 8.08 or $ 16.17), which is more than Rdio’s American pricing, but follows the same structure as Spotify. Given the similar package on offer — unlimited desktop streaming for lower tier customers, and mobile streaming and offline syncing for the higher price — it seems the market has settled into that 5/10 shape for now.
The big question as the two go head to head may be the difference between their catalogs. The general consensus seems to be that Spotify has deeper listings, but Rdio is better at getting new releases on board.
A cursory look through the top 20 UK albums suggests that they’re pretty — most interestingly neither have access to Adele’s 21, one of the U.K.’s biggest selling records of all time and currently #2 in the album charts. Spotify (which is part-owned by the big record labels) has famously struggled to get those tracks into its catalog, but Rdio users in America can listen to it. That indicates some jiggery-pokery going on with the labels over rights — though the extent is not clear yet.
Given those similarities, the question seems to be whether Rdio’s offering is enough to tempt away Spotify’s substantial user base, which has been built up over several years. Or is Spotify’s gravity — and new offerings like its iPad app, launched Wednesday — going to make it hard for Rdio to make headway?
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