Over the past few months, I’ve tried out the Rdio and Spotify subscription music services, and thought I’d write a bit about why I ultimately chose Rdio instead of Spotify.

For the longest time, I turned my nose up at these services.  I always fancied myself a supporterRdio of music and musicians, and as such I always wanted to own music.  This seemed not only in my best interests (so that I could have music, and not rely on corporations making deals so that I might have the right to stream that music), but also in the best interests of the artists I wanted to support.

Services like Spotify and Rdio seemingly contradict that stance, particularly in light of pieces like this that demonstrate how little artists make from streaming music services.  But in trying out these services, I came to find that they didn’t prevent me from buying music, but facilitated such purchases.

I know I’m not a prime example, and may simply be an edge case.  But the only justification I saw in the piracy of others was the chance to “demo” music in light of having been burned too many times on $10-$15 CD purchases to shell out that cash for an album he or she may hate, or only need a track or two from.  Piracy didn’t need to be a way around buying music, but an avenue toward it.

Streaming services like Spotify and Rdio, then, offer up legal access to countless artists, albums and songs.  For the price of an album per month, I can listen to dozens of albums and cherry-pick my favorites, if there are any.  And for the bargain hunter, or the person simply unconcerned with owning his or her music, these streaming libraries simply become their music collection, easily accessed on their phone or computer.

With the potential uses established, the question becomes: which service should I use?  Spotify is the most popular service, and the first one I used.  I only became aware of Rdio in seeing passing mention of it on web sites I frequent — eventually, I realized too many writers I admire and respect used the service.  I figured I owed it a shot.

Spotify offers users consistent access to its service via computer.  The only price you pay: occasional audio advertisements, which play whether you’re in the middle of a playlist or an album.  There’s no way to avoid them.  For instance, if you mute your computer, the advertisement pauses and resumes when you turn your volume back up.  For a monthly fee, though, you can ditch the ads, and also gain access to Spotify on your phone or tablet.  Rdio, meanwhile, offers a weeklong trial before asking you to pony up for a subscription.  After that, you’re either a customer or you’re out.

I didn’t even need all 7 days to realize that Rdio was the better service (at least for the user who is ready, willing and able to pay — if not, Spotify’s free account is obviously the better option).  Rdio’s look is clean and sharp.  That’s not to say that Spotify is ugly, but its design seems as interested in its additional features (like display ads, or social network implementation) as the music itself.  Rdio, meanwhile, acts more like a music library: I can collect music into a library of my own creation, while also building separate playlists.

If you sign up for Spotify and don’t link it to your Facebook account (as I did not), the service won’t let you forget it.  I couldn’t log into Spotify without being reminded that I didn’t have the networks linked.  Rdio certainly offers similar features, but isn’t at all pushy about it: aside from prompting me upon first use, Rdio never reminded me again.  It was content to let me pay them for music: what a relief. Spotify never shut up, even during the period when I was a paying subscriber.

Ultimately, though, what compelled me to choose Rdio was the way it facilitated my album-listening.  I’m sure I’m becoming a relic in this respect, but I love listening to albums front-to-back.  Sure, I’ll build playlists for road trips or the gym, but if I’m at home and listening to music on Rdio, I’m picking albums that I’m interested in hearing for the first time.

In short, Spotify is initially compelling for a lot of reasons: it provides easier access to free music, allows you to discover what your friends are listening to, and offers great tools for playlist creation and sharing.  But for music lovers — and specifically lovers of the album form — Rdio provides a much better way to navigate its equally vast library of music.