RDIO CEO says "Spotify is a unicorn..."

US music service RDIO is not concerned about Spotify, the massively popular European music service coming to the US.
Written by Tom Foremski, Contributor

As Spotify, the hugely popular European online music service prepares for its imminent US launch, RDIO, a relatively new online music service, recently hosted a media roundtable at the swanky Boulevard Restaurant, in San Francisco, with journalists from Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Financial Times, CNET, Forbes, Business Insider, Technologizer, and The Next Web.

It was an interesting evening, moderated by Mike McGuire, an analyst at Gartner. Here are some of my notes:

- Drew Larner, CEO of RDIO denied that the suddenly organized dinner had anything to do with Spotify. He called the European music service a "unicorn" because its appearance in the US market has been reported for nearly two years and still no one had seen it.

- I mentioned that I had "seen it" and used it and that it is a very impressive service. It streams almost immediately and it doesn't have that online "shudder" that all other online streaming services seem to have and that put the listener on edge. And it has a great selection.

- Mr Larner said that despite music streaming being available for nearly ten years, there was still a lot of education that needed to take place. Netflix streaming is helping educate users.

- J Sider, CEO of Rootmusic, said his company has a very successful service that helps musicians (more than 200K) create Facebook pages and use the network to promote their work. I joked that it was a MySpace porting service as musicians flee the troubled network for greener pastures.

- Hermione Way from The Next Web made a good point about Soundcloud, another successful European music service, becoming a new type of music label for bands.

- There was some discussion about Android and music and Harry McCracken from Technologizer asked if Android users are music buyers. I would guess not because Android users like "free" they are mostly geeks earning $100K salaries who refuse to pay a dime for anything, let alone music. They will waste hours trying to download free stuff.

- Had a little rant moment when I mentioned that something had to be done about Ticketmaster because bands can't make money online so they have to perform but that Ticketmaster will take as much as 100% of the ticket price in "services".

Did Ticketmaster practice for years in a cold garage? Did it schlep music equipment up several flights of stairs to set up the gig? Did Ticketmaster staff the facility and make sure it was safe and had plenty of beer? No. Yet it deserves 100% of the ticket price. It's utterly outrageous that the US government allowed its merger with Live Nation. [Mugged By Ticketmaster - The Outrageous Tax On Culture - SVW]

- It came out that RDIO has worldwide rights to much of its music and it is looking at launching in South America and Asia.

- Larry Marcus, managing director at Walden Capital (above photo) demonstrated the incredible Soundhound iPad application. He hummed or sang (badly) several tunes and it correctly identified the song. Saying the name of a song or musician brought up additional songs. I could see how something like this could make for a great UI for a music service. Soundhound gets around paying for rights by only playing samples.

- I tried to get a ballpark figure for how much music labels charge to stream a single song. RDIO's Mr Larner refused to say anything or give a ballpark number and Gartner's Mr McGuire had no idea. I had been told by one music executive more than a year ago that it was about .25 cents, Mr Larner said it was way too low and that every label had different rates for everyone.

- I have a subscription to RDIO and I like it but I don't like the fact that it claims to have a large catalog and once you get to an album its songs are grayed out, which means they can't be played. Also, RDIO's iPad app is classified as "mobile" which means you have to pay double the monthly fee even though you are merely in your living room and not at your computer. That's a strange definition of "mobile."

- I asked about Telcos bandwidth caps and if that might cause people to stay away from music streaming. I was told that music takes up little bandwidth. However, I do feel that people need to be educated on this matter. It took me two seconds to find a question from a user about bandwidth caps on the RDIO support forum.

- My fave music streaming service was LaLa, killed by Steve Jobs. RDIO is the closest I've found to LaLa.

- We went around the table and shared new music discoveries: Trampled By Turtles, Devotchka, XX, The Walkmen, Fleet Foxes, Eva Cassidy, Burst Apart, TV on the Radio, Bon Iver, Adelle, Joseph Arthur, and one of my favorites: The Devil Makes Three.

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