Requiem for a Stream

The Globe and Mail takes a look at the demise of Rdio. This bums me out greatly–and I’m not alone. From the looks of things, the death of Rdio will be felt more in Canada than just about anywhere else in the world.

As we approach two decades of upheaval in the music industry, it’s only human to want to cling to constants. Music itself is a constant. We use it to soundtrack our lives, building collections and communities around it. How we listen to it, though, has changed drastically. A single generation has watched formats fight for dominance, from cassettes to CDs to downloads to streaming. Streaming is terrible for artists, no question, but for fans, it has a refreshing sense of finality. At last, universal access to the songs we want for a half-decent price. At last, a constant.

Which is great, until those songs disappear. That’s about to happen for everyone using Rdio, the on-demand streaming service that last week revealedit was filing for bankruptcy and selling assets to Internet radio giant Pandora, like a used car that’s only good for a few parts. For much of the world, this wasn’t a big deal: Rdio had long trailed Spotify for streaming-music dominance. But its closing will be felt most strongly in Canada.

We’re rarely a first stop for tech startups, especially those in industries that rely on tangled webs of licensing agreements for content. This is a country so small, with a music-licensing system so frustrating, that Spotify didn’t even show up until 2014. But Rdio gave Canada a chance, launching here in 2010 and becoming a haven for early adopters. The loss of Rdio is a sign of the inevitable contraction of the music-streaming world – how many 2003-era iTunes competitors can you name? – and it’ll be felt harder here than most other countries.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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