Pandora buys Rdio: Which streaming service will rule?

Alex Kidman 17 November 2015


Rdio is set to shut while Pandora expands, but which service should you sign up with?

If you’re a fan of streaming music services, it seems as though your choices are starting to reduce somewhat. The latest salvo in the streaming music space comes with the news that streaming service Rdio is being purchased by the significantly larger Pandora.

Rdio will wind down its music streaming services in every market it operates in, including Australia, while Pandora hands over USD$75 million for the IP rights and technology holdings of Rdio, as well as picking up an unspecified quantity of Rdio staff as new hires.

The claim, according to Pandora is that it will use the assets it acquires from Rdio to "offer an expanded Pandora listening experience by late 2016, pending its ability to obtain proper licenses."

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While Pandora competes with services such as Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal and JB Hi-Fi Now in that it offers music on a streaming basis, the actual listening model is quite different. Where Spotify and its ilk offer you complete albums or individual tracks on a mostly user-selects basis for a flat monthly fee, Pandora’s model is more akin to radio, using its existing database of user preferences, which Pandora refers to as the "Music Genome Project" to deliver a radio-style listening experience that spins similar tracks off from a single track or artist selection. Pandora’s only pricing tier is for Pandora One, which omits ads and offers the ability to skip more tracks in a given hour than the free tier.

Pandora’s model relies on mandatory radio licensing terms being available to support its business model, which is why it’s only available in a limited number of countries; specifically the U.S, New Zealand and Australia. The acquisition of Rdio probably points to a longer term plan to acquire direct licenses from music labels to compete more directly with other services in the all-you-can-listen space, but until they announce more direct plans, here’s how the current Australian music services compare.

Streaming ServiceFree Trial?Streaming QualityTracksFree TierPrice (per month)
PandoraAd-supported free tier with no time limitPandora 64k AAC+, Pandora One 192kbps~1,000,000Ad-supported Limited skips$4.99 USD
Spotify60 day premium, ad-supported tier also availableFree: Approx. 96-160 kbps Premium: Approx. 320 kbps~30,000,000Ad-supported$11.99 AUD
Apple Music90 day256kbps~30,000,000Apple Radio with limited skips$11.99 AUD
Tidal30 dayStandard 320kbps, HiFi 1411kbps~30,000,000No free tierStandard $11.99 HiFi $23.99
DEEZER30 day320kbps~35,000,000Ad-supported$11.99 AUD
JB HI-FI NOW30 dayNot specified~18,000,000No free tier$10.00 AUD
Microsoft Groove30 day192 kbps~40,000,000Free web player$9.99 AUD
Google Play30 day320 kbps~20,000,000No free tier$11.99 AUD

The reality for all of these services is that while competition is a good thing to keep prices as low as possible, it’s entirely likely that there’s no one "best" service for you, because not every service has every track or style you might possibly like. Tidal, for example, sells itself as a service run by musicians and sells on some notable name exclusives, but at a higher price than its competitors, while Apple Music sells on the style of the Apple brand and its integrated radio services. Most offer a free trial, however, so you can sample each to see if one does service your particular musical needs.

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