The future of Roon for non-streaming users?

The old value prop of Roon was helping users explore their local library through a superior UX and integration with third-party data providers to provide improved context and discoverability; it was basically “we’ll help you explore the files you already have.”

Over the past couple of years, Roon’s focus has shifted more toward streaming services, with new features like Valence and the improved Roon Radio largely dependent on having an account with Tidal or Quboz.

Unfortunately for me, my family are heavy Spotify users, and they frequently use and place a lot of importance on the social and discovery features in Spotify. The comparable features in Tidal and Quboz really don’t hold a candle to what’s available in Spotify. I don’t want to subscribe to multiple music streaming services, so this locks me out of the streaming-focused features in Roon.

This makes me wonder: are local file-only users going to be left behind? Is this use case still a priority for Roon? Can non-streaming users expect significant new features in the future, or will most new features be dependent on having an account with Tidal or Quboz?

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I’m about to become a full member (trial about to expire), need to make that decision in the next few days, and that’s one of my main worries me. I used the 1.7 version briefly (since Nov), and I did noticed that some small features geared to folks with their own collection were dropped.

I do like Roon, but I share your concern too.

Peace,
Tony

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It might be of comfort that Danny said in the “prime years” thread that they are looking into making this feature pick up local files as well. So at least there’s clearly still an interest in the local files.

Seems like two different issues. Just because Roon supports Tidal and Qobuz, did it stop working with your local files?

Just because Roon does not support Spotify, did it stop working with your local files?

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Does Roon care about non-streamers anymore? - Roon Software - Roon Labs Community
This was just about a year ago, upon release of 1.7.

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I think the future direction of Roon aligns very well with the OP’s concerns.

I think based on comments from the folks at Roon on threads about 1.8, it isn’t that they are ignoring or forgetting the local files folks. That seems to be a concern that has been raised in reaction to 1.8.

Your question was more about being “left behind”. I think that is valid. A lot of things rely on a critical mass of data and metadata. Tidal and Qobuz offer that over the local files. So it is quite likely that new “smart” features would focus more on these areas. Does that mean no new features for local library folks? I don’t think so. Does that mean no comparable features? Possibly - or features that have limitations.

As for Spotify - there are good reasons their discoverability is better than tidal or Qobuz. I don’t see either of them being able to match it in a hurry (or at all). Amazon possibly could. Maybe Google.

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Oh dear. That’s a scary link for any newcomers like me :grimacing:

Your concern was slightly different from the OP if I read right. You’re worried about features being dropped for non streamers. Danny and Mike have said in threads about things like tagging that they are revisiting things. Will non streamers be left behind - possibly. Will non streamers be forgotten? Probably not.

Well that’s how I read it. But obviously can’t speak for Roon. Or your $.

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With only two niche streaming services on-board I’d be more concerned about the future for Roon streaming users…

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It shouldn’t. If you’re happy with local library and discovering music using your own means don’t let it put you off. I don’t need a streaming service to discover new music. I much prefer discussing and discovering music amongst a group of friends with varied tastes and supplementing that by following websites dealing with the genres I enjoy.

If/when Roon enables users to follow and connect with one another based on tastes that’s when things will become really interesting.

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We’re not going to leave you behind.

At the same time, we will destroy the long-term viability of Roon if we do not continue to keep up with what is going on in the streaming world, so we have to give it some attention to it also. Peoples’ expectations of music software are rapidly changing.

Yes. It’s not going anywhere, and people who use files are not going anywhere either.

Yes. Some of the largest stuff on our roadmap supports both use cases equally.

No, but there will be some. It also depends on your viewpoint. I don’t see 1.8 as being primarily focused on streaming users, even though there are some features that have that limitation, but you may be getting that feeling.

Here’s how I would break it down–

1.8 features for everyone:

  • User interface overhaul
  • The focus feature on artist, album, and composition pages
  • Improvements to classical browsing experience
  • Listening Dashboard
  • The subset of discovery features that make sense of in context of a local library

Limited to streaming users:

  • The subset of the discovery features that are difficult to apply to smaller sets of content, or that, for some other reason, don’t make sense purely within one person’s music library.
  • The ability to browse outside of your library on artist pages and composition pages.

We are trying to give people the best possible browsing experience for whatever content they have access to, period, and we have plenty of users that use both kinds of content. There will always be things that we spend time on that don’t make sense for files-only users, and vice versa, and some that work for everyone. It’s just the nature of the beast.

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Many thanks for the reply and outlining your thoughts. I share some of the concerns of the OP, not in terms of being left behind so much (as I also use streaming services, albeit in a minority role) but in having streaming information “forced” on my local files. I’ve learned to deal with the idiosyncracies of Roon metadata (e.g. overriding at times the Primary Artist to fit more with my local file requirements) but dislike the inability to turn some features off. For example, the Home screen is now not that relevant to me and my local files and the Popular information on my Artist pages is a real irritant.

I’ve explained this elsewhere but I would like Roon to permit more customisation so features (e.g. the Popular tracks) could be turned off, even if on by default. This ability could allow Roon to keep up to speed with the streaming world (and, let’s face it, the wants of most customers I expect) while allowing those who do not want/need that information to hide it, pushing emphasis back on their local files.

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Two niche streaming services that are losing money, if I’m not mistaken. It’s not inconceivable that they could both go away at some point. Maybe Roon could actually buy one of them before it comes to that?

First, for context, I’m a person who started as “local library only” (~5000 redbook rips) and over the course of 4 months with Roon added first Tidal and then Qobuz, and now listens to 75-85% streaming. I prefer in most cases the Qobuz hi-res version to my local version, and the discovery features are magic to me. But, within my recent living memory I was “local only”, and previously I spent a huge amount of time on tagging. That does not mean I judge those who don’t follow my path, or that I don’t have empathy for the fear of being left behind. I’ve said elsewhere that I imagine Roon as a business should focus on where it can grow revenue/profit, and the economics of a more purely SaaS subscription offering are attractive and operationally possible for the “streaming only” customer. But I want Roon to support all of its users, especially because the lifetime model creates a different moral incentive than pure subscription SaaS models.

However, I would never suggest that someone buy a money-losing venture unless they have a clear path to make it not lose money. I doubt that Roon with its 100k-ish subscribers provides a better route to lower CAC or lower churn or lower cost to serve than Qobuz or Tidal face currently.

Honestly, as a user, I hope that Roon chases every last $ of profit they possibly can as far as possible. I think that, regardless of your library modality, growth is the most likely way you can improve your likelihood of a working, thriving product. And clearly Roon cares about “local only” users, but the product is going to evolve in ways that make it, at least in some narrow ways, less “useful” than it is to streaming customers (eg, some features may not work; you may not value those features however so that may be ok).

I guess as an investor, I like this to the “scale begets data density begets usability begets profit” narrative. You may not like Google for privacy or monopoly or predatory behavior or…, but they provide the best search results because they have the most usage, so you grudgingly use it, so they get more data. My use case is kind of like that - if they get more users and usage, I vote for them with my wallet. I want them to eventually threaten Spotify. No joke. Not in the “most users”, but in the “most of the really useful users”. Then we will have a product that does amazing things for both local only and streaming users. And until we get to that sort of data density, we don’t really have a super long term viable business model. Minnows get eaten.

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Thanks for the thoughtful response, Brian.

I still hold out some hope that “keep(ing) up with what is going on in the streaming world” eventually leads to an integration with the market leader (Spotify), but I recognize that there’s a hard dependency on the other side actually being open to a viable commercial deal so I’m not holding my breath. :innocent:

I hope Roon sticks with upscale, high resolution music providers and continues to cater to audiophiles and those people who are willing and able to spend money on their music systems. I think it would be a huge mistake for Roon to take on the mass of Spotify or Apple Music customers who are content with the streaming resolutions those companies have available. I don’t know, but I suspect the majority of their customers are content with an iPhone and earbuds.

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I’ll bet (and hope) you didn’t realize how arrogant that comment would sound when you were typing it (“people who are willing and able to spend money on their music systems”). You’re making a LOT of assumptions about Spotify (or Apple Music) customers in that statement.

This is coming from someone who has spent $15k+ on my primary stereo and also happily uses Spotify.

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Please, don’t imply or say I am being arrogant. I’m sure lots of people who have spent lots of money on their systems are also using Spotify. However, I suspect lots of Spotify users are like my kids and grandkids streaming to their iPhones and earbuds. Roon needs to stay a high-end niche product for listening to and managing high resolution music.

You expressed an opinion and I expressed an opinion. We don’t need to agree.

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(Sorry, can’t work out how to quote properly with a reference to the post I’m quoting, so I did it manually…)

@Johnny_Ooooops:
However, I would never suggest that someone buy a money-losing venture unless they have a clear path to make it not lose money. I doubt that Roon with its 100k-ish subscribers provides a better route to lower CAC or lower churn or lower cost to serve than Qobuz or Tidal face currently.

Yeah, admittedly it seems like a long shot. The rationale for my suggestion is that Roon’s business model going forward is heavily reliant on integration with at least one streaming company that has a large catalog and is available in most countries. And the major players (Spotify, Apple, Amazon) don’t seem interested. So where does that leave Roon if Qobuz and Tidal were to both disappear?

I don’t know enough about the economics of the streaming companies to understand why Spotify is profitable but Qobuz and Tidal are not. I think they’re all paying the same licensing fees per user, so maybe the difference is just economy of scale: in order to pay for the streaming infrastructure you need a large number of paying subscribers.