Sunday, October 14, 2007

Review: Grooveshark

After hearing about it from CNET's Buzz Out Loud podcast, I decided to try out Grooveshark, which is a new service that aims to clean up the world of P2P without becoming a puppet of the RIAA. Unlike some of the other P2P networks that used to be illegal, got taken to court, and then became clean as a way to vindicate themselves, Grooveshark is nobly trying to start clean and not suck at the same time. In order to do this, they plan to deal with the fundamental problem with file-sharing...the artists don't get paid. On the flip side, they need to make money and so does their user base, so their motto has become "Everybody gets paid."

To do this, Grooveshark has set up their site so that new users can download the Sharkbyte client (which is fairly lightweight in terms of system resources), which can then be directed to upload all of the MP3, OGG, or FLAC files located in a specified folder. Grooveshark then takes those shared tracks and marks them as available for download. Users that want to get those tracks can pay 99 cents and download it via the same client. That money then gets split between the record company that owns the song, Grooveshark, and surprisingly, the user who initially shared the music. Instead of penalizing the file-sharer, he or she is paid for putting in the effort to sell that song to another user. Right now the going rate for sharing a song is 25 cents per sale, which can add up to free tracks fairly quickly.

I have gone through these steps, though I haven't bought any music yet, and have a few comments on the model, the site, and how it all fits in with the state of file-sharing. It seems like a good idea at the start, but there are a few roadblocks that may slow down the adoption of this kind of system.

The most obvious of these roadblocks is that the model has to be able to compete with "free." In other words, Limewire-like services offer relatively high-quality music (videos and other media too) at no cost to the user. Of course, these services are heavily infested with viruses and there is no unified way to name the files so locating what you want can be difficult. BitTorrent networks have less problems with viruses, but the difficulty of understanding how the files are organized and which torrent sites to use is too challenging for many users. Grooveshark and other legit models of its generation will need to rely heavily on the quality, ease of use, and reliability of their services to draw users away from piracy and on to a paid model.

As far as I have seen (though it is a Beta so I don't judge it too harshly), the Grooveshark site is a fairly vast amalgamation of different users, tracks, artists, and forums that do not mesh well together. When searching for a song, for instance, the results bring up every instance of that song (especially when there are different spellings and capitalizations) individually and generally make it hard to determine which file is the one you want. Each instance of each song, album, or artist has its own page, which further complicates things, as they are all generally the same, have little content, and needlessly subdivide the body of each artist.

I had some trouble with the client, which again is a Beta so it is fairly understandable, so I went onto the forums. Sadly, my Grooveshark account is different from the forum account, so I had to go through the process of registering again in order to get forum help. This is not the only site that does this, but it doesn't make it any less annoying. Anyway, after I got access to the forum, I looked to see if anyone else had had my problem. Not finding anything, I entered in my problem and waited for a stronger geek to help me. Unfortunately, there don't seem to be that many users on the forum yet, and no one directly with Grooveshark has addressed my problem. Here the Beta rule does not apply. I have used many partially developed programs and web services and have almost always had a quick and informative response. Developers typically love to get bugs worked out ASAP after they go public. I can't say the same thing about Grooveshark's staff. [Ok, it seems that the gods of fate are against me today, because within seconds of posting this up, Grooveshark's help desk got back to me via email and is working with me to solve the problem. It still took a while, but I am retracting the "not getting back to me" part. :P]

I have to say that as of now I am fairly dissappointed with Grooveshark because their website is an Ajax filled mess. Also, the lack of easy [quick] bug support makes me wary of purchasing anything from the site. Still, I am idealistic and I hold out in hopes that as more users join and as Grooveshark gets itself settled, that the quality of the site will increase to a point that pirates will think about putting down cold, hard cash for what they could find elsewhere for free. There you have it...feel free to request an invite (I have 4 left) or post questions if you have any!

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1 comment:

  1. Jimmy, I'm glad you've had a chance to check out Grooveshark and gave us an honest review.

    Being a perfectionist myself, I probably wouldn't have been so kind on us, but that's why we're here.

    We are working everyday to make our site and our community the best it can be, and appreciate your support immensely.

    We hope that you will continue to be a member and stay with us and we grow together.

    All the best,

    Andrew Wise
    andrew dot wise at grooveshark dot com


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The content of this page is completely the creation and opinion of James Rogers. He is affiliated with Connect Mason and formerly Broadside Online but the relationship only governs republication, not content.

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