Rdio Launches $3.99 Streaming Plan — With a Catch

Rdio isn’t new to the highly competitive streaming music market, but they just announced a new price structure that’s garnering some big interest in the music industry. Aiming for the cost-conscious consumer, Rdio has initiated a plan that’s just $3.99 per month, Rdio Select, for an ad-free experience with unlimited skips and 25 downloads. This makes it the cheapest commercial-free subscription streaming service. How does that compare to what they’ve offered before, and why should we care?

Like the Rdio Unlimited plan ($9.99/month) you get unlimited stations to stream to your mobile device, along with unlimited chances to pick exactly what you want to listen to at the moment - music on-demand. Users can select and download up to 25 songs a day that they can keep indefinitely, or replace any or all once a day so you can listen offline to only your favorite songs of the day.

Why is it better than Rdio, the free version? Unlimited skips, zero ads, and the ability to download 25 tracks, even entire albums at a time. The limit of 25 downloads is what lets Rdio keep the price so low for Select. Here’s the best part - streams and downloads of the entire 30-million song library are all at 356kbps in AAC format - which in my professional opinion, is preferable to MP3. I wish that the full-blown Rdio Unlimited plan ($9.99) was even higher resolution than that, but alas, it’s not meant to be. (Goodbye Rdio, hello Tidal?) In the free version, the bitrate is 192 kbps but can be as low as 64 kbps (ugh!) if you’re on EDGE or a 3G mobile connection. Users can select a more data-conservative bitrate if desired, or to only stream high-quality audio while connected via WiFi.

And that leads us right to the catch. Rdio Select is only available for mobile devices. For web-based listening, it’s either the free (low-bitrate) version or the Unlimited ($9.99/month) version for 356 kbps. For our community, the free version with that low bitrate really isn’t an option.

Currently, industry-leader Spotify has either a free, ad-supported version or a $9.99/month version that’s similar to Rdio Unlimited. It’s just a matter of time before Apple releases its service based on its largest acquisition to date, Beats. It’s been reported that Apple/Beats has been campaigning for record labels to lower their costs to the giant so they can offer an unlimited service for as little as $5/month. In another bit of corporate bullying, Apple is also rumored to be strong-arming record labels to get them to prohibit Spotify and others from offering any type of free service.

“We’re excited to reach a new group of price sensitive music subscribers with Rdio Select and have designed the service to appeal to a wide audience,” said Rdio CEO Anthony Bay in an online press release. “Rdio Select joins our free tier of ad-supported Internet radio and our premium Rdio Unlimited package. We remain committed to offering customized streaming options tuned to different listening audiences that includes the free listening experience. We believe in a free tier that is fair to artists, labels, and consumers alike."

The Rdio service is quite user-friendly. In addition to creating “You FM”, a personalized station, you can select a variety of genre- or artist-based stations. Currently, the Mumford & Sons station is one of the most popular, and users can select how adventurous they want the station to venture by veering from the main artist.

Rdio Select is currently available in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and South Africa, although other countries will be added shortly. The system is compatible with iOS and Android phones along with Chromecast, Roku and Sonos.

Is the market ready for yet another streaming option? With the higher bitrate and AAC format, the price is certainly appealing, and the Rdio user interface is fresh and easy to navigate. Tidal was thought to be a game-changer, but it’s not even in the top 700 app list on iTunes, even with its higher resolution that seemed to make it the best option for most serious listeners. With the Apple/Beats option still an unknown, it might be best to take advantage of the 60-day free trial being offered for a limited time for Rdio Select. Give it a try and let us know what you think - we’re listening too.

Leslie Shapiro's picture
Allan, try going straight to the select page. It says "Try Rdio Select free for 60 days. Only $3.99/month after that."
mardukes's picture

Where HiFi equals CD quality. Whoopdy-do. At least it's AN avenue that is not the total reduction to noise.