Goodbye, Rdio

Like everybody else, I felt like I had heard every song on Pandora by the time I discovered Rdio.  I was user number 4075, a paid unlimited user, signing up on June 6, 2010.  I was really happy to hear anything I wanted.  I used the Rdio Desktop client to create a collection on the service with my local iTunes Library.  I listened to it a lot.

Like many others, I moved to Spotify once it finally came to the US.  I don't recall why exactly, but if I know myself like I think I do it was simply because I wanted to try something else.  But I always thought as Rdio as the service for music lovers.

I ended up with a role at Rdio due to an acquisition.  They were bringing in the TastemakerX team.  There were other places the TMX team could have landed, but I wanted it to be Rdio.  It was perfect.  Just the right size, opportunities for growth, and most of all I'd be working on a product that people really, really loved.

I worked on handful of very different things while at Rdio.  When I joined they were midway through a major redesign.  I jumped in cranking out parts of the UI that still needed to be done.

I did a hardware integration for Jaguar/Landrover using Bosch's technology.  I doubt many people have seen that work, but it was cool to be working with hardware.

I think I was the only engineer that started and finished the Rdio Live project.  Live wasn't a popular feature within the company, and I understand that it only happened for political and business reasons.  But by the the time it launched people thought it was cool.  And it was.  We got terrestrial radio seamlessly integrated into an on-demand service.  It worked way better as an experience than I thought it would.  It even brought in new users.  I was told it was the most friction and hassle free launch in Rdio's history.  So that's something.

The mobile team was small.  Probably too small.  But I preferred it that way.  I got to work on every piece of the codebase.  Sure, the original app was in C#, due to a decision by people no longer at the company, to utilize Xamarin, but the current team didn't want it, or like it.  So we started rewriting it.  We were building from the ground up, in Swift (with some Objective-c), a new iOS application that will never see the light of day. I was focusing on the playback engine, something I've never done a deep dive into before.  As a side effect of Swift being new, and C# being new to me, this means I developed in two new languages in under a year and a half on a daily basis.  So again, that's something.

I may be the only person who received an offer from Pandora who feels about 50/50 if they will accept it or not.  I always told people Rdio is about as large of a company as I'd want to be at.  When I started I think it was just around 150 people.  It's probably closer to 200 globally now.  Pandora touts 1800+ employees.  I asked representatives to explain how I won't get lost in a sea of engineers.  They couldn't tell me I wouldn't.  They couldn't tell me I'd matter.

There's a possibility I'm more touchy about this than the rest of my team because this is the second time I've been acquired in two years.  Maybe I feel like I'm being pushed around with no control over my own destiny.  That I can be bought and sold to the highest bidder.  I don't actually feel this way, I can walk away at any time.  But the fact that it's come to mind at all means there might be something to it.

Rdio's shutdown isn't just a loss to me, or the people I share an office with every day.  It's a loss to the world of music.  Rdio was the service for music lovers, by music lovers.  In this world of The Streaming Services vs. The Music Business it's not enough to love music to keep the lights on.  There's no guarantee Pandora can do any better.  They're the ones, prior to their IPO, who were petitioning the copyright royalty board every few years saying they'd go out of business if rates were hiked up.  They're trying to pay less to artists.  The same artists who are already trying to put the streaming services out of business.  So I'm not sure how this can end well.

Regardless of any of this, Rdio will be a thing of the past soon.  A story about a fantastic product sold in a fire sale because the music streaming industry is brutal.  But I'm really lucky to have been a part of it, even for a short time.  Goodbye, Rdio.  You had too much empty whitespace.