There are few things I have missed more since moving to the Middle East than Pandora. For those of you who don’t know, Pandora is a free online music streaming service that lets you create your own “stations” based on artist or songs you like. It’s an amazing way to discover new music and perfect for party mixes when your iTunes selection is boring you. Pandora, though, does not work outside of the United States and the only way to access its service is via a clever work around (not that I have ever done that of course!).
You can only imagine my joy when I recently discovered Grooveshark, a web-based music streaming website that works internationally – yes, everywhere in the world (well except Turkey, where the government decided to block it)! I have only been using Grooveshark for a few days, but I must say that overall it is a great site for someone that wants to stream music online and also discover new music.
The first great thing you will notice about Grooveshark is that you don’t need to sign-up to start playing music. Just jump right in and search for songs or artists and start listening, or listen to one of the Grooveshark radio stations, which include pop, folk, rock, classical, jazz, bluegrass and more. I would recommend creating an account though so you can take advantage of the many benefits you gain as a member. As a member, you can create playlists, upload your own music and build a library of favorite songs.
Also, as a member, you can smile or frown on any song playing on Grooveshark radio, helping it better tailor the station to your preferences. The radio station, however, is not as nice as Pandora’s station feature, where you can have Pandora create a station for you based on a favorite artist or song (oh how I miss my Ani DiFranco, Bob Dylan and Ingrid Michaelson stations… and yes the Lady Gaga one too!). Songs playing on the Grooveshark radio can easily be added to a playlist or your favorite songs – a great way to remember the new song you love. There is also a nice feature that allows you to quickly connect to your iTunes or Amazon account to purchase songs you like- expect many impulse purchases!
Grooveshark also makes online music streaming social by incorporating a Twitter-like feature that allows you to follow other members and see what they have added to their favorites or listened to, and also to see their playlists. Undoubtedly, once active in this social network, you will discover people with similar tastes and likely be introduced to tons of new music. Grooveshark also allows you to sync with your Facebook and Google accounts so you can share your discoveries and favorites with friends and contacts.
All of the above can be done for free, but Grooveshark does offer some premium membership that range from $6-$9 a month. Premium members don’t have to see ads (although I barely notice them as is), get more themes options for the web interface, have access to more technical support and can also download version for a variety of smart phones, making the service available to them just about anywhere. This is certainly something you may want to consider, but I am content with my free membership for now.
A majority of the music on Grooveshark is uploaded by its users, but there are many record labels that are supporting the site. In the ever-complicated world of content rights (especially when P2P is involved), few industries have taken more blows than the recording industry. Grooveshark seems to be offering an innovative model for artists to more openly share their music, while retaining their rights and, at the same time, making some money on their work. So far, Grooveshark has managed to mostly stay out of court and it does have a policy that it will take down any music if it violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The site is working with record labels and artists, so there is good reason to believe it will not be shutdown, and in fact, most predict it to grow.
From a pure user-perspective, I clearly love Grooveshark and encourage any music lover (or person yearning for Pandora) to try it out – 27 million users already have. With a rapidly growing user base, it will certainly only get better. And for musicians, this might be a great way for you to share your work and gain fans. Check it out and let me know your thoughts – and by all means let me know what you are listening to that I should add to my playlists.