5/20/10

Grooving on Grooveshark

Thank you to everyone who commented (and wrote to me) with ideas and suggestions for good music options from behind an iron firewall.  I've been enjoying lots of them, from KCRW's "Eclectic 24" stream (just music, no talking) to Spinner.com's "New Releases" series (full-length new albums available for streaming) to the CBC's Radio 3 stream (a great way to hear new Candian indie bands, when it works).  But today I tried what might just be my new favorite:  Grooveshark.

I'd heard about Grooveshark a while back, but dismissed it at the time as being yet another "upload all your music here and we'll stream it back to you" sites - I had no need for such a service, since I already had all my music available via my Squeezecenter.  Well, now that the firewall has come between me and my library, Grooveshark is the closest I've come to replicating my Squeezecenter experience.  The site works thusly:  users upload music (any songs not allowed by Grooveshark's agreements with various record labels are automatically blocked, supposedly); users search for music; users stream music.  I wouldn't be doing justice to their interface to describe it as "usable, pretty, and simple" - though it is all those things.  It's also intuitive and doesn't make you jump through any hoops to start playing music.  You simply search for bands or songs, and if they are found in the library (haven't searched for anything yet that they didn't have) your song starts playing.  You can create your own library, add favorites, and save and share playlists.

Of course it has a recommendation engine built in, as well.  I don't know the details of how it picks what it does, but so far it's done a pretty decent job recommending music to me.  Mostly it's artists I already know, but there have been a few surprises.  Unlike Pandora, you can add whatever songs you want to your playlist as it's playing, and "Grooveshark Radio" (the recommendation engine) will adjust itself accordingly based on songs you add.  I'm not sure yet if it's just going off the last song played, or if it's really taking into account everything you add, but either way I'm finding it to be a really nice mix of "play what I want to hear" and "surprise me with stuff I might like" all in the same interface.

I still don't understand how they make money, even after reading the "How does Grooveshark make money?" FAQ entry on their site.  It just doesn't seem like the income streams would be enough to support a model where they pay artists and labels every time a song is played.  From what I've read, the key things you get with a VIP account are scrobbling to last.fm (very cool, but not worth money to me) and the ability to stream to your phone (also very cool, and possibly worth money to me).  Though the forums are awash with complaints about the Android version of the app, so maybe it's best to hold off on that one for now.

So far my only gripes with the site are that I wish the recommendation engine would go a little farther outside its comfort zone (a lot of songs end up being very similar), and I wish that the browser tab title would update automatically with the currently playing song.  Despite those minor shortcomings, Grooveshark is a great (and free) way to combine a huge music library with a decent recommendation engine, all for free.

What do you think?  Anyone out there using it?  Got any tips and tricks?  Let me know in the comments.

1 comment:

lorig said...

Just heard about these folks. Looks interesting

http://www.rdio.com/