Music and travel are important to me in equal measure. As an experienced lover of road trips, and a mix tape junkie, I sought to test the true advancement of cloud music and how it transcends my personal experiences. So far, I have enjoyed cloud music from most of the major services you’ve heard of, everything from Pandora to mog, Sirius and Slacker. All of those choices work well in 3G and WiFi enabled settings, even underground, with Pandora coming in first, Rdio a close second. But what about a road trip? What about the offline options in cloud music not available on most cloud services? What happens if we take one of these services on a real road trip, where service is spotty at best?

On my road trips, I generally go to spots where 3G is the numeric abbreviation for the federal fine you will pay if you cut down a tree. Bringing music on a road trip to a lovely unknown wilderness destination is serious business, and the tunes matter. If I can’t bring cloud music on a real road trip, I may want to decide if it is worth the subscription fee. The cloud doesn’t just make music listening easier, it may have the power to enhance activities I already love. Or it could screw up. And then I’d have no music, stuck in the middle, of nowhere. Many things could go wrong, and, frankly, most products just don’t work the way they should. I knew there was a risk. Huge.

I’ve been making mix tapes (playlists) since before I could drive, but once I had wheels, tapes were my first attempts at scoring the film I was not making. Sequencing the mix tape, composing it – that was my favorite part. Every road trip was a reason to create concept albums for the road. I listened to the same mixes over and over. I changed it up. I knew what was next. Or couldn’t wait to hear how perfectly I’d sequenced the new tape. This was a good life, and a beloved process.

The digital music cloud sure does have big shoes to fill.

Cloud Challenge: Rdio

The cloud service I use the most is Rdio, and I’m in the throes of a playlist addiction (I have created 58 playlists so far).

Rdio’s playlist functionality works for me. Collaborative options tap into my existing mix-tape creative behaviors; I can share my mix tapes again. Behold 2010: where mix tapes are called playlist and making tapes is one click away. It’s fun, I can share it instantly, and holy crap, the song counts on these playlists are endless. In the Digital Music Cloud, there are no limits. Well, at least not when it comes to the number of songs you and your friends can include in your growing playlist.

Setting Up The Rdio Challenge

1. Log In, Sync To Mobile
On September 17-21, 2010 I put Rdio to the test, relying solely on their mobile application for a road trip in and around the most beautiful middle of nowhere. To make it work just right, I logged into rdio and used the ‘sync to mobile’ drop down feature for every album in my collection that I thought I might want on the road trip (or added new albums and synced those).

2. Playlists, Sync To Mobile
I cleaned up my playlists, thought of themes, compositions for my trip. I sync’d playlists of my own, others I subscribe to or collaborate with, and added any music I would want on the road. I made sure to sync a number of active collaborative playlists so they would automatically update on the road, as long as I had 3G or WiFi.

3. Open App On Phone, Click “Sync To Mobile”
20 minutes later, everything I chose to sync to mobile had completed syncing to my mobile phone, and we’re off.

4. Go Offline
As predicted, we hit a long stretch without gas stations or service, so I clicked “offline” in the app.

I couldn’t even tell the difference.

This function worked throughout the entire trip.

5. Go Ahead, Try It Again

We reached a hotel, and hopped on WiFi, readjusted some of our playlists, and added more music. Once again it took about 20 minutes to sync all of the new additions or update any collaborative playlists. Slept. Got back on the road the next day.

It worked. Everything worked. In offline mode, we didn’t notice a single skip.

The Results

Rdio works perfectly without 3G or WiFi, in offline mode. All you have to do is sync your cloud music with your mobile app. Et voila – take it on the plane, listen to rdio in airplane mode.

Most cloud services require a 3G or wireless connection, and while they are disruptive services changing the way we consume and experience music, Rdio certainly poses a challenge to its competitors, as it now passes the SF Appeal Offline Road Trip Challenge.

When it comes to on demand cloud based music, Rdio takes the lead.

Got a cloud music challenge? Let me know, I’ll give it a whirl and report back my experience. Just tell me which service, and what situation you want me to use it in.

Photo: Corey heads out on her road trip, photo from her flickr.

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