Tuesday, October 21, 2014

How I Rdio

I've been a fan of Rdio for years now (which, come to think of it, is probably why I work for them). More interesting, though, than the question, “What music service do you use?” is, “How do you actually use it?” Here then, is my answer. For starters, it should be noted that while in general I love Rdio’s UI, there are various things I’ve found to be missing that I’ve gone ahead and built for myself using Rdio’s lovely JavaScript API (which, as it turns out, I also built; that’s how I know how lovely it is). With that in mind, let’s take a tour:

The Tunes Must Flow

I listen to music most frequently while working at my computer. During the workday, I just want to have excellent music playing, and I want to stay in the flow. For me this means whole albums, because each album has a consistency that doesn’t grab your attention with each track change. This also means being able to queue up a whole bunch of albums ahead of time, so I don’t have to stop and fiddle with my music periodically throughout the day. Fortunately, Rdio excels at thinking in terms of albums, and it’s got a fine queue. Every so often, when the queue runs low, I’ll jam a new pile on; I’ve generally got dozens of albums lined up.


When I’m not working, I do like to fiddle with music, as a leisure-time activity. In the evenings I sometimes wander around, checking things out, adding new stuff to my queue or favorites, etc. This is the modern-day equivalent of my old habit of haunting music stores, looking for that next great find. If I'm looking for new music, I'll use Fathom or the social stuff that shows up on Rdio’s homepage feed or the "here are new albums from your favorite artists" feature that shows up in notifications.

Once I’ve found a promising-sounding album, I toss it on the queue for a full listening during the workday. Every few days I go to Music Triage which shows me any new albums I've listened to that I haven't already triaged. Here I quickly add things to my favorites or mark things I didn't like. In this way I make sure nothing falls through the cracks, without having to pay attention throughout the day.


It turns out music discovery these days is so great, I’ve got a new problem: hundreds of albums I’ve discovered and liked enough to add to my favorites but never listened to again because I was off to the next big thing. To listen to music I already know I like, and hopefully connect more deeply with things I’ve discovered, I pull up Collection Random and use it to quickly queue up a bunch of albums. I find this "show me some stuff randomly from my collection" better than any sort of rational sorting… otherwise you end up falling into ruts.

Mid-Queue Interruptions

My next-most-frequent music-listening station is in the kitchen while cooking and cleaning. I usually want to listen to something entirely different there; more upbeat and attention-grabbing. If I think of it before leaving my computer, I push an appropriate album ahead of the queue (in Rdio’s Mac interface, it’s command-clicking the play button on any album). Unfortunately, Rdio’s mobile app doesn’t support such things, so I’ve made Mobile Queue to support reorganizing the queue on my mobile web browser.

So there you have it

…my music “workflow”. Who knows what my music rhythm will be like in a year, but for now this is working great, and I love having the power to customize my interactions as needed.  At the moment, I think I’ve found a good balance between finding new stuff and listening to favorites, with a minimum of ongoing effort (not counting the initial development time, which was fun noodling anyway).

How about you? How do you use your music service?



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