Why I Love Rdio

I have no interest in “owning” music. We have a huge CDcollection, and from that a large MP3 collection from those that weripped, but none of it sees much attention. Several months back mywife bought the new Adele CD, the first such purchase in over ayear, but it has yet to be removed from its wrapper.

Instead everything I listen to is on Rdio.

New “albums” by Kanye West, Arcade Fire, Duran Duran, Lady Gaga,Adele, Beastie Boys, Tori Amos, and on and on. All instantlyavailable and listenable, including offline on mobile. Not aterribly eclectic mix (my hipster roots run shallow), but where Iwant music on the desktop, tablet, or mobile, it abides.

The recent flurry of cloud music storage options is a conceptthat sounds quaint and somewhat obsolete. A holdover from thepast. I don’t see much utility of such a mechanism unless you’reactually creating your own music. It sounds more like a solutionfor digital hoarders. Obviously cloudbackups and syncing are important, and are brilliant inproducts like Steam (which has been the leader in native cloudintegration), but for cloud music storage of your personal archives…meh.

Back to Rdio — just to be clear I don’t know anyone who worksfor them, I pay normal monthly fees, and I have absolutely noconflict of interest in this entry. I simply like the service andthink they’re doing a lot right — one of the things that make mehappiest about the service is that you can change your servicelevel, or even cancel the service outright, from a simplebutton in your account management. Netflix deserves credit for thesame simplicity.

No Xbox Live-like scumbag tactics (never give your credit cardto Xbox Live. Ever) or byzantine “gymmembership” techniques. Just an honest “if you think it’s worththe money you won’t click on cancel” button. You can even deleteyour credit card from their file, which should be something thatevery site could do.

Any site that puts obstacles around auto-renewals*, or that disallow an easycancellation (if it’s more difficult than signing up, it’sbullshit), deserves no business. They do those tactics because theyknow that they don’t provide the value, and instead attempt tomaintain a captive consumer base.

As one aside, when Paypal first hit the market it wasrevolutionary because it put consumers back in control. It didn’ttake long before they realized that their cut of the recurringbilling market was too good to pass up, and with PayPal the controlis back in the hand of whoever you ever conducted a transactionwith.

* – One of my worst auto-renewal experiences ever was humorouslywith Consumer Reports online. I had signed up for a year just tolook for some specific reviews (that their paywall indicatedexisted, but on actually getting in I discovered were justplaceholders), and was surprised a year later when I got a noticethat I had been charged for another year. Time is short withmultiple young children, so I spent a while searching for thecancel option on their site, to find nothing, eventually justforgetting about it, which was lazy as a consumer and is exactlythe behavior they prey upon. A year later, another charge for aservice I never used. Again I tried to find a method to cancel it,eventually getting distracted.

The next year they sent me an email warning me that, for myconvenience (the biggest lie of them all) they wanted toauto-renew me again, but that my credit card on file had expired. Ineed to act quick to avoid losing the service I hadn’t used inalmost three years.

Great, I thought. Easy way to cancel it.

A couple of months go by and I discover that they somehowmanaged to renew again! I suppose they must have justguessed what my next expiry date would have been, and gone withthat. Extraordinary.

This pushed past the point of reason, so various angry contactslater the service was finally cancelled. I think there is someliteral irony in the fact that my most unsavoury consumerexperience was with Consumer Reports.