Rdio Launches Technical & Business Plan to Route Around Apple’s Subscription Fees
Streaming music subscription service Rdio today announced availability of a series of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) that outside developers can use to add playback of Rdio’s 8 million song catalog and social features like popular playlists to their web applications. Developers that can sign up new subscribers to Rdio’s $5 or $10 per month paid services will receive a two to three percent commission for the lifetime of the subscriber. That could help create a small army of sales people that could sell Rdio in settings outside of the Rdio iPhone app, where Apple will soon begin taking a hefty 30% cut.
Rdio subscribers will be able to listen to all the music in full through apps using the API, trial subscribers will be able to listen for 7 days and non-subscribers will hear short previews. How many apps will want to integrate music for subscribers to another service? As an Rdio subscriber myself, I hope a lot will.
Rdio is offering 3 types of APIs for the web: one based on the much-loved open OEmbed standard, a REST API and a Web Playback API. Playback APIs for iOS and Android apps are forthcoming, the company says. In other words, the functionality and affiliate sales are focused for now on web apps.
That makes the most sense from a financial perspective, but whether streaming music service subscriptions can be sold in large numbers through the web, instead of through in-app purchases on proprietary platforms like Apple’s iOS, will be a big determinant of the viability of this low-margin new business. Rdio makes no mention of Apple in its announcement, but given the industry’s intense focus on Apple’s controversial new plan to take a 30% cut from subscriptions sold on its platform – it’s hard not to consider an affiliate program for web-based sales of subscriptions in light of that.
Will web apps be able to generate a meaningful amount of interest in music that requires a subscription after 7 days? There’s not a whole lot of options otherwise for quick and easy integration of music streaming. “Ever since our launch six months ago our API has been our most requested feature,” says Todd Berman, VP of Engineering at Rdio. “Developers who have been looking for a way to integrate music into their web applications now have a way to do it easily, legally and accessibly. We’re also excited that our subscribers and the public will now be able to access Rdio content all over the web.”
The whole subscription streaming model still seems like an open question – I like it a lot myself but will it catch on generally? It’s hard to say. APIs for subscription streaming is a step even further out. It’s a bold experiment but it would be great if it worked. It would be even greater if a standards-based API play ended up being what helped innovative music startups thrive despite concerns about Apple’s stranglehold over mobile platforms.
Rdio’s APIs are built on top of the Mashery API management platform. (Disclosure: Mashery is a long-time sponsor of ReadWriteWeb.)
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