Spotify vs. Rdio: Beware… Spotify has no usable mobile Library

September 6th, 2011
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It has been a long journey trying to make this jump to subscription based music listening… and I’m far from satisfied. My must haves are… intuitive user experience, great artist / album / song selection, must have some way to share what I’m listening to with friends, and of course the obvious things… offline play, accurate artist / album information, etc.

This post is meant to be a personal perspective after spending a few months testing out Spotify and Rdio. It is not meant to be a complete list (those can be found fairly easily), just my current complaints with the services. I will probably be posting more in the future as I make up my mind as to which service I like.

Current Frustrations

Spotify is losing massive points with their mobile app. When you want to listen to music you have to either know what album you want to listen to and search for it, or scroll through every track that you have starred or have in a playlist to find one. There is no personal library of artists or albums.

Generally you would expect to click on a “Library” tab then get a list of your artists. Once you choose an artist you would get a list of that artist’s albums. With Spotify this is not the case. Your “Library” is just one massive list of tracks.

I learned early that there is no native ‘Add to Library’ or ‘Add to Collection’ function in Spotify. Instead, you add artists / albums / tracks to your “Library” by starring them or adding them to a playlist. My first thought was to create a playlist called “Library” and put everything I found that I wanted to remember into it. This does not work. It is just a list of tracks. In the desktop application this is fine as it is just a normal list of tracks sortable by artist or album, but for the mobile app a long list of non-sortable tracks is not usable. So for me to get to The Naked and Famous I have to scroll down 3000+ tracks. It takes a long time and is not usable. You have the same problem if you try to star all of your library items.

I figured there has to be a better way to do this so I googled for a better way to manage your Spotify Library and I found that people are getting around this by creating playlists for each artist they want to add to their library. So they end up having 500+ playlists. What a messed up way to handle a music library.

I’m torn. Though it has it’s own problems, Rdio handles this much better. As expected you add albums to your “Collection”. Then when you navigate to your collection you get a list of artists. Once you’ve selected an artist you get a list of that artist’s albums. It works as expected.

Spotify Music Organization

Often times I’ve noticed Spotify has numerous copies of a specific album for example, any of Frightened Rabbit’s official releases. It is tough to know which album is the ‘Correct’ album. Maybe that’s not important.

Rdio Sharing

You can only share playlists and new favorite music with friends that have Rdio. Because there is no free service, like Spotify has, people can listen to 30 second clips of each track in your playlist, but nothing more. This is unfortunate as music listening is, in part, a social experience for me.

Music Selection

It is true that Spotify has more music than Rdio. That is a big deal to me, but after using Rdio, it is far less noticeable than I thought it would be. Rdio is very good at getting new music as soon as it is released. I have also found a number of albums that I would not expect them to have. It hasn’t really proven to be a large issue for me (yet). You can compare the libraries of the different services over here: http://www.mattmontag.com/smasher/.

Closing

Until these services improve I’m leaning towards… Rdio Premium for primary listening (Rdio also has a great iPad app that Spotify is missing), Spotify Free to create playlists and share them with friends, and iTunes (manual purchase) for anything Rdio and Spotify don’t have. Kind of messed up, but I knew this transition wouldn’t be easy.

(ref. http://getsatisfaction.com/spotify/topics/organize_favourite_music_in_a_library)

4 Comments:

  1. If you don’t know which music subscription service has the music you want, check out Matt Montag’s Smasher:
    http://www.mattmontag.com/smasher/

  2. You hit all of my issues w/ Spotify vs. Rdio except one – Spotify’s ability to mix your local library with their cloud library. That is a very cool.

  3. @Matt

    Thanks for your comment. I do like the ability to mix your local library with Spotify’s cloud library. Honestly though, this was a concept that takes a minute to wrap your head around. I think Spotify’s lack of a thought out UI is what makes conceptually understanding where your music is makes this a bit of a challenge.

    That being said, I think it is a great feature and one that I hope Rdio thinks about implementing in the future (or Spotify cleans up so it is more usable).

  4. Hi Aaron. It was exactly this problem of the lack of a ‘collection’ in Spotify that inspired me to create my new website SpotiOrg – http://www.spotiorg.com

    You can easily search the Spotify database and add albums to your collection using a beautiful iTunes-like grid, sort your collection using various options, and play an album in Spotify with just one click.

    It’s completely free to use and it might just be the thing you’re looking for.

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