AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Rdio, the music subscription service from Skype and Kazaa co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, announced major changes to its music subscription service designed to "put music and people front and center," in an effort to evolve past what it calls the "boring" "spreadsheet" approach of some other music services.
The company unveiled new apps for the web and desktop with bigger artwork and easy-to-use social features, and announced that it now has more than 15 million songs -- approximately as many as any other subscription music service. But today's announcement mainly focused on the service's slick redesign by Wilson Miner, formerly of Apple.com and Django, pictured below.
"We don't think music and art should be presented the same way as quarterly sales data in a spreadsheet," said Rdio vice president of product Malthe Sigurdsson at today's event. "In our minds, it deserves more. It deserves better. We focus on the album... we want the album art to come back into focus [with] big beautiful bold artwork. We believe the experience really matters and are willing to spend time, money and effort on that."
Rdio designer Wilson Miner displays his redesign at SXSW 2012
The site now loads faster between views and plays music faster when you click it; includes a navigation bar so you always know where you are; and is "more social" with a strip on the right side that shows your friends, so you can share music with them. The new Rdio focuses on a new "heavy rotation" view (pictured above) so you can access your favorite stuff faster. Other views include recent activity, top charts, new releases, your playlists, and your friends' playlists.
Miner's new design adapts to larger or smaller screens, so if you have a massive monitor, you'll see more stuff, and even bigger artwork. On a smaller screen, the design crunches down to display as much as it can.
In a move possibly borrowed from Facebook, you can see what your friends are listening to and listen along in real time with them. Going beyond Facebook's real-time listening feature, you can also share playlists directly to specific friends by simply dragging the playlists onto their names -- or onto Facebook or Twitter. In the demo, the drag-and-drop features (also including playlist creation) looked pretty slick.
Rdio also now makes it easier to meet people. When you sign in, it suggests other users to become friends with -- as well as record labels like 4AD and magazines like XLR8R.
"With the new Rdio, we've gone even further, making it simpler, faster and more beautiful to create an experience that's all about music and people," he added.
Like the other monthly music subscriptions, Rdio costs $10 per month if you want to use it on computers and smartphones or $5 per month for the web/desktop version only. It adds a unique family plan option with pricing that varies depending on how many family members subscribe. The new service rolls out today in the United States, Canada, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal and Denmark.
This story was updated in real time throughout Rdio's launch event at SXSW 2012. Here's the full feature list from the company:
• New look and feel: More than just a spreadsheet of songs, the new Rdio puts music and people front and center.
• All in one place: Less time spent navigating leaves more time for discovering. Music, playlists and your network are now contained in one streamlined view.
• Browse even faster: Find music at lightning speed with pages that remember your place. Browse through a continuous stream of albums, explore one and easily return to the place you left off-no more repeated scrolling or saving multiple tabs in a browser.
• Adaptive layout: Rdio resizes intuitively based on browser window size. Music and content instinctively adapt across all screens.
• Listen with your network: From the People Sidebar, see what your network is listening to in real-time and listen along with one-click.
• Let your network inspire your listening: Wondering if you'll like an album in the charts or why it appeared in your Heavy Rotation? Hover over photos underneath every album on Rdio and see exactly who in your network has listened to it.
• Sharing made simple: Drag and drop music into playlists or collections and share with others on Rdio without missing a beat. Music can also be shared on Facebook, Twitter or via email.
• Create private playlists: In addition to public and collaborative playlists, now private playlists can be created and shared with just a select few, if desired.
• Add entire albums to playlists: Now add entire albums to playlists in an instant. One of Rdio's most-requested features is now a reality.
• Easily discover people to follow: Check out Rdio's latest music influencers in the People Sidebar and find others to follow such as artists, critics, record labels and brands. Instantly connect to Facebook, Twitter and Last.fm and Rdio will also recommend people to follow based on friends in those networks.