Spotify: It’s Just a Boring Spreadsheet, According to Rdio

What’s the real problem with Spotify?

Bailing superstars like Paul McCartney are probably the biggest challenge, but Rdio says it’s the interface.  Which is why they’re completely overhauling in the hopes of finally getting noticed.  “This is more than just a redesign; the new Rdio transforms the boring, spreadsheet-like way of consuming digital music into something visual and dynamic,” said Rdio vice president of product Malthe Sigurdsson at SXSW, in an obvious dig on Spotify.

So here’s the new Rdio alternative…

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But wait: isn’t simplicity the beauty of Spotify (and iTunes, for that matter)?  If I want to find a Cults track, I just search for it, then I listen to it.  If I want to playlist it, I do that, and if I want to locally-cache it to my iPhone, I do that.  And if I want to discover similar tracks, I can always jump into something like a Spotify-integrated Moodagent to stir some discovery.

So really: what’s wrong with that? According to Rdio designer Wilson Miner, the album artwork! The beauty of it all!  Which is why “big, bold, and beautiful” artwork was a centerpiece of Miner’s redesign unveiling in Austin, and a major investment in energy over the past few months.

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Actually, that’s just one aspect of this fairly comprehensive update. Rdio now loads faster, the interface is more sensible, playlists and networks can be viewed at-a-glance, and an adaptive layout changes the amount of content to fit your screen size.  Other features include better album sorting and private playlists.  Or, on the other end of the spectrum, the ability to share and view real-time listening within your friend circle.

The question is whether those are just bells-and-whistles, or genuine differentiators for music fans.  Or, if Spotify really has a ‘boring spreadsheet’ problem in the first place.


24 Responses

    • penisenvy

      Dude, so you work for a competitor that barely anyone uses, great. Maybe get yourself some press rather than sniping.

      • earbits

        In what world is a free radio site competing with Rdio’s subscription on-demand service? And in what galaxy do anonymous posters step up to defend the deep-pocketed company struggling to innovate against the 11 person startup?

        At least you gave yourself an appropriate handle.

    • Bill Schacht

      Couldn’t agree more. Sorry to knock you Rdio guys but you have the backing to do way better than this.

  1. David Rosen

    umm… i feel like i’m looking at Spotify in those pictures. what am I missing? it’s like the exact same thing.

  2. Bill Schacht

    Both Visual interfaces are version .000001 in the progression of where this will go. I called Rdio on this when they started up and got nowhere, also spoke to a VC in Spotify who wants to see me monetize my vision before he supports it. It blows being on that bleeding edge. These portals, iTunes and others will be infinitely more interesting in the future, if that takes one, two or ten years remains to be seen. Where are the visionaries when you need em? Rdio has a point but their rebuttal here is as lame as what they complain about. Using album covers to increase the visual impact? You’ll need to do Btr.

  3. Brad

    I used Rdio untill a few months ago when I finally converted to Spotify. For me, it was all about the iTunes integration. Spotify accesses your files on your computer much better and accesses your iTunes playlists. I also like I can add to my iTunes playlists with Spotify files. BUT. Rdio’s interfaces was and now even more is way better than Spotify. As I have told my friends, Rdio looks like Apple designers created it and Spotify looks like PC designers created it.

  4. Deke

    An improvement from previous Rdio versions I suppose but still far from being boldly better. Rdio needs to find a way to differentiate their product. Frankly, none of the streaming music services seem that much different from each other. They all need to put more focus on the user experience.

  5. Anthony

    Spotify’s UI isn’t that great. It could definitely be more intuitive and exciting. Not a fan of the dark theme either – iTunes lighter color is easier on the eyes.

  6. Jake

    I’ve been using Spotify for the past few months, and it’s great if you know what you want to listen to. In terms of discovery, though, I’ve been super impressed with my experience on over the past few weeks. Love the team at Rdio though.

  7. Adam

    I very much enjoy the “boring spreadsheet” interface. It’s straight forward, and intuitive.

  8. squint

    Spotify’s interface is better for my purposes. It all depends on what kind of user you are. Modeling your interface after the most popular music player of all time but significantly changing the way music is discovered (for the better) is pretty smart in my opinion.

    Is there room for improvement? Sure. There’s always room for improvement. I’m sure Spotify will update their app to put more emphasis on album art one day. You can already see big album art for the currently playing song.

  9. Bryna

    I’m disappointed in this redesign. I use Rdio all the time and I have been very taken by the large album art and the “non spreadsheet” UI…but this seems like a broad step towards being another Spotify-like interface. They took some things that made Rdio special – like social network filters on “Heavy Rotation” – and removed them in lieu of a UI that looks like a mashup of MOG and Spotify. Yes, the album art is bigger than in Spotify. But the content display and the UI metaphors are not fresh, and it’s a shame to see the Rdio differentiators go by the wayside. I also miss the rich blue gradient background color; I find the gray web-app color to be (counter-intuitively) washing out the beauty of the album art.

    That said, I’m being a reactive user who has not let the design changes marinate. I hope to come to love the snappier web app and find a few extra sweet things along the way.

  10. bleedinstereo

    I think one huge win in this pile is the adaptive content lay out to fit the screen you are viewing on. It’s a small thing that will probably go widely unnoticed but the feel of the site and the fluidity will be there, and people will find themselves returning more often. If the visual integration of the album art work can be loaded quickly and in an interactive/entertaining way (ie lyrics, album facts, etc) THEN it will be a selling point, until then I don’t think the album artwork is much to brag about, doesn’t it seem like the album artwork would be something that EVERY service in this category would want to have front and center? At least at some level the album covers should be featured to reinforce the artist’s brand as well as give the blisters something to connect with visually aside from the text telling them the name of the next song.

  11. @madktc

    1. Spotify > Rdio in the catalog department. This is why Spotify is better. (last I saw, the ratio was 2 to 1)

    2. Apple has been patiently testing streaming while keeping the labels uber happy on the digital sales and cloud locker front. This gives them a tremendous advantage in licensing, user-base and implementation over all the other streaming-like services.

    • john

      ~15m to ~12m ain’t 2 to 1, and regardless vast swaths of numbers like that is stuff that doesn’t get streamed a single time. You could have a 5 million song that equals a 15 million song catalog if it it’s not inflating its numbers with stuff no one listens to.

      The “whose catalog is bigger” contest is pure marketing/bragging rights, not a reflection of true quality of the selection overall. And sure there are some disparities between the two but (in my experience) generally the artists and labels that hold off of streaming services aren’t playing favorites to an extent that would make either service noticeably better than the other.

  12. @wampusmm

    This is why Spotify is taking Rdio to school. Keep it simple.

  13. RP

    I don’t want to look at the music I’m listening to while working at lightning fast speeds. I’ll stick with the boring spreadsheet.

  14. @soulandjazz

    Spotify boring? It wasn’t me that brought it up but now you come to mention it…

  15. User

    Spotify has already won.Hands down. Give it up for the Scandinavians All other discussions are boring. Its iTunes all over again.