Rdio co-founder Friis touts mobile as key to digital music success

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SAN FRANCISCO--Mobile technology is the critical component to delivering a complete digital music experience according to Janus Friis, co-founder of social music service Rdio. Speaking here at Billboard's Mobile Entertainment Live! event, Friis said he first began mulling the concept of a premium digital music platform a decade ago while heading Kazaa, the peer-to-peer sharing service he launched with partner Niklas Zennström in 2001. "We were thinking then about how to make this profitable, but the timing wasn't right--you couldn't do the things we're doing now back then," Friis said. "Trends in the mobile space make now the right time. We can see that mobile is the key to a full music service--[smartphones] are like having a virtual iPod."

The subscription-based Rdio launched in mid-2010, joining the growing ranks of on-demand music services such as Spotify and MOG. Rdio boasts personalized recommendations for new music based on users' specific tastes and listening behavior, along with on-demand artist-based radio stations, a matching tool that replicates existing iTunes or Windows Media Player libraries and collaborative, shared playlists allowing users to swap links and information to favorite songs via email, Facebook and Twitter. Unlimited, ad-free monthly web and mobile access costs $9.99 a month, with web-only access available for $4.99--Rdio's smartphone solutions feature applications optimized for iPhone, Android and BlackBerry devices.

While free music download alternatives will always pose a threat to premium media offerings, Friis said services such as Rdio can overhaul and improve the economics of digital music distribution by convincing consumers of the inherent value in paying for access to content. "We knew we had to create a service that's so good, people would want to pay for it," he explained. "This is a new paradigm. Paying $10 a month for unlimited music as opposed to buying an album on iTunes is a good proposition."

Rdio must aggressively communicate that value, Friis added: "The challenge we face is to clearly explain and define what is the new music model," he said.

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