From today users of the Rdio app will be able to listen to unlimited streaming music via a radio-like "Station" that is themed by genre, artist or other parameters without having to pay. For now the new free service is also free of ads, although this is likely to be a temporary feature. The move places Rdio in even more direct rivalry with Internet radio streaming services on offer from Apple, Spotify and other apps.
The free Stations feature is only accessible to Rdio users in Australia, Canada and the U.S., probably thanks to the labyrinthine nature of international music licensing laws. Previously Stations, which can be personalized to suit the listening tastes of each user (via the app's recently announced "You FM" Station), were available to paying customers only along with the app's more full-featured music-on-demand system.
Seemingly from nowhere, the streaming music scene has quickly become one of the hottest battlegrounds in mobile tech. Apple's entry, via its new iTunes Radio service, came a little later than some smaller efforts like Spotify, Pandora and Rdio itself, but thanks to the massive inertia offered by iTunes -- which revolutionized digital music in the first place, via the iPod -- it's already had a big impact. So big, in fact, that there is speculation about the long-term options for brands like Pandora. Separately Apple added a new wrinkle to Radio yesterday when it revealed that pre-release albums would be available by streaming over iTunes Radio.