Interview: Rdio Prepares To Take On Spotify, Deezer Et Al In Europe

Unlimited-music service Rdio concedes it will have to fight incumbents as it prepares to launch across the whole of Europe.

“There are some major competitors in Europe,” Rdio’s partnerships and internationalisation VP Scott Bagby tells paidContent. “We are a couple of years behind others in terms of expansion there.

“But Europe is an immediate focus. We’ll be expanding in all countries in Europe – within the next few months, you’ll see several pop up.”

No timescale on UK launch

Rdio recently added Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Australia and New Zealand to its U.S. and Canada availability. And it just quietly soft-launched access in Denmark.

Now it has gained a PRS For Music license to play UK artists across Europe, speculation has mounted on the timescale of other continental launches, including in the UK. But Bagby said the “exact date is not set in stone”: “Lining all the stakeholders up and making them happy is extremely difficult.”

It transpired Spotify launched in Germany without being in full possession of expected licenses. But Bagby says Rdio will make sure it has all necessary rights, and a range of local music repertoire, before going in to any new country.

Europe, then Asia

“I did the international expansion for Skype, I’ve known (Rdio founders) Niklas (Zennstrom) and Janus (Friis) for some time now,” he told me. “One of the important things for them, beside product usability, is they love international expansion. So I came in in August 2010 to immediately look at international expansion. It’s always been on our roadmap.

We already have a guy on the ground in Asia and have been talking with stakeholders out there.”

Young guns

But all the other music-access services have the same idea. Spotify, Deezer, We7 and Rhapsody are amongst those expanding to new countries. Rdio will need to fend off the throng.

Still, the segment is still young – at 2011’s end, there were only 13.4 million music subscribers in the whole world, according to the IFPI.

The streaming space is very nascent,” Bagby says. “The general population is not familiar at all with what is going on. There is huge room for growth.”

Too many cooks?

Even so, with multiple music-subscription services entering each developed market, the scene could be set for later bloodbath.

I think there’ll be some consolidation,” Bagby says. “But it’s definitely not a one- or two-person game. When water comes in to a lake, all the boats go up.”

Unsurprisingly, Bagby shakes off suggestion that his Rdio might be involved in that consolidation, as Mog has been to Beats Audio/HTC: “The vision for our company from the beginning was to be a strong brand of its own.”

Partner or not

For its recent Brazil launch, Rdio partnered with telco Oi on a bundled offering. Such a deal is not essential to each new roll-out, Bagby says.

“Each individual market is different. Brazil, as a developing market, has issues with scepticism on credit card payments – people trust their mobile providers a lot more.

“In Scandinavia, that’s not an issue. So is a partner in every market a necessity? I don’t think so. But, even so, if the right partner comes along, we’re very interested.”