If part of the game in streaming music is to have the biggest catalog of tracks, then today Rdio made a significant move to turn its volume up to Spotify levels, and gain some street cred with indie fans in the process: it announced two key deals with CD Baby and TuneCore, both independent music aggregators, that ramps up its total track number to 18 million songs, and adds some 250,000 new musicians into the catalog.
The deal also will mean a much bigger route to getting music on to Rdio for unsigned artists, which will now be able to offer their tracks via Rdio in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Sweden and Finland.
This could actually put Rdio just ahead of Spotify in terms of catalog size. As of June 2012 Spotify had 17 million songs in its catalog, compared to the 18 million now touted by Rdio — although Spotify’s numbers may now be bigger than this. In terms of label agreements, Spotify already had deals with both TuneCore and CD Baby, so this is really more about Rdio stepping up to meet the challenge rather than go beyond what Spotify offers.
While this might bring the two companies’ catalogs up to the same levels of tracks, it still remains to be seen whether Rdio, which launched some two years after Spotify and operates under a different model (no ads, for one thing), will reach the former company’s mindshare in the industry. Spotify currently has some three million users in the U.S. alone, and 18 million worldwide, and is thought to be worth $4 billion. (That size has also been attracting lawsuits.)
Rdio, however, has some compelling pedigree. It was co-founded by Janus Friis, one of the founders of Skype. It’s backed by Friis’ and Niklas Zennstrom’s Atomico ventures, Mangrove Captial and others.
“We are excited to partner with TuneCore and CD Baby, two of the best distribution tools out there for independent artists,” said Drew Larner, CEO of Rdio, in a statement. “Independent music is a vital part of Rdio’s catalog. We’re glad to support hundreds of thousands of self-released artists by connecting their work to new music fans from all over the world.”
This expands the avenues where TuneCore and CD Baby distribute music. Before this TuneCore was available on iTunes, Google Play, eMusic, AmazonMP3, Deezer, Simfy among other download and streaming sites. The company operates on a flat-fee system, taking no percentage on the sale of music. The acts that distribute through TuneCore include Nine Inch Nails, Drake, Civil Wars, Sonic Youth, Beck, Lil’ Wayne, Jay-Z, Aretha Franklin, Keith Richards, Blood On The Dance Floor, Public Enemy, Willie Nelson, They Might Be Giants, Donna Summer, MGM Studios, Bjork, Moby, Girl Talk, Brian Eno and more. It says that in the past two years, it sold more than 600 million songs and generated over $300 million dollars in gross music sales and songwriter revenue.
CD Baby, meanwhile, says that it has to date distributed 4 million tracks to online retailers and streaming services, and paid out $200 million to artists in the last 12 years. It also operates a physical CD business, as well as digital music hosting services (HostBaby) and e-book distribution (BookBaby).
Unlike Spotify, which uses a peer-to-peer network to run its service, Rdio is built on a client/server architecture. Both offer users the ability to stream and share music with friends.
Spotify offers freemium, ad-based services among its pricing tiers, while Rdio’s service is ad-free.
Rdio offers a short-term, free trial but then costs $4.99 monthly for web access and $9.99 for access across unlimited devices, including mobile, Sonos and Roku devices. A higher family tier for multiple users costs $17.99/month. Skip Tunes has a good chart comparing the two services, along with Mog’s.