I Thought iTunes Match’s Matching Wasn’t Great; Then I Tried Rdio

I’ve written a lot about iTunes Match, and how it’s “matching” isn’t great. There are albums in can’t match, even though those albums are in the iTunes Store, and when it does match an album, it often matches all but one song.

But yesterday, I tried out Rdio’s new radio station feature. Rdio offered to match my music collection. “Great,” I thought, “then the radio stations they offer will contain music I want to listen to.” It’s a pretty easy process: with the desktop Rdio app, you just click a button and it matches your music. Well, not really. Here’s what I got when I finished:

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Given how quick the process was, it clearly didn’t match tracks using digital fingerprints, as iTunes Match does. It took just a few minutes to scan may 70,642 “songs.” The fact that it found less than 10% of my music shows that it clearly relies on tags. Which is problematic in several ways.

First, if your tags are different from Rdio’s, then you lose. Given the fact that more than half of my music is classical, and the matching process didn’t find a single classical track, shows that a) Rdio has very little classical music, and b) the way Rdio tags classical tracks is different from mine. If their matching algorithm really depends on tags, well, they’ve got it wrong.

Second, some of the matches were spurious. For some albums, it find one or two tracks; for others, it matched to what were clearly bootlegs, which Rdio should not even have. Look at the screenshot below: those “Greenwich Village” albums are bootlegs, and I don’t have any of their songs, yet Rdio found that certain of the songs I have are the same versions as the ones on those albums.

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Here is another example. I have four early Chicago Transit Authority (Chicago) albums. Rdio thinks I have disparate songs from 20 different albums, some of which are bootlegs.

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One more. I recently bought The Clash’s Sound System box set. I ripped all the CDs and tagged them with their original album names. At best, Rdio thinks I have 4 songs from Sandinista!, 5 from the Studio Album Set, and 3 from Sound System.

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I could show plenty of other examples.

I don’t know what Rdio bases its matches on; if it’s just artist-album-song, then they shouldn’t come up with matches from albums I don’t own; if it’s just artist-song, then there will be far too many matches for popular artists, with their music showing up in best-of collections and compilations.

Rdio’s matching is a joke. You don’t offer to match a collection if the results are this bad.