Rdio offers subscribers unlimited access to streaming music in the USA & Canada and announced they “just got ‘more unlimited” in a recent press release. With the addition of top indie artists including Yo La Tengo, Pixies, Pavement, Superchunk and Belle & Sebastian, they aren’t kidding.
These, and a slew of other recognizable indie artists from the 1990s arrived in the Rdio catalog thanks to a new relationship with Merlin, the de facto ‘fifth major” licensing agency for leading independent labels and label groups.
Merlin has not published a list of their label members, but maintain that their members account for some 10 percent of the digital global music market. Rdio CEO Drew Larner told the Appeal that Rdio’s “goal is to be an international company in Europe, Asia & South America, and we’re working on various opportunities,” but for now, the Rdio – Merlin relationship is limited to North American territories.
Details of the deal were not disclosed, but history leaves a lingering question regarding equity; if Merlin got equity in Rdio, nobody knows but Merlin and Rdio. And of course, the members of Merlin.
Larner is no stranger to dealing with content. He first met the Skype Founders Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis when they were cooking up Kazaa, and then Joost. Drew’s background is in content, and when Niklas and Janus needed a leader, Larner said, “they came to me, although initially I was just involved with helping the business side. By the time they asked me to get involved I knew the whole team. But really, titles are really irrelevant to us, we all have complimentary skill sets.”
While I have not yet had the opportunity to check out the integration itself, it looks as if it will change the way Sonos users use the Sonos, adding a “people you follow” element into the device, making your stereo a source of music recommendations. Not a bad deal.
Rdio says content ingestion and encoding will continue to be noticeable over the next month or so to its userbase, which is “in the six figures,” and most of them via smartphone. Larner told me 72% of all Rdio subscribers have an Rdio mobile subscription. The interplay between web use and smartphone use is one of the best features I have found in the service, as it enables me to take my streaming music offline for awesome activities like road trips.
Larner is in the process of moving to San Francisco from Los Angles and is part owner of music venue The Independent, as is his brother Jon, who lives in San Francisco and has more hands on involvement with the venue.
Larner confirmed that while Rdio expands, they will indeed remain right here in our backyard. So all I ask is that if you see any of their staff drinking at a bar, please use that time to find out if Merlin got equity.