Bye-bye Last.fm. Hello Grooveshark?
I listen a lot to music online. I’ve been using Last.fm since 2006, it’s actually one of the very few community/social web sites I use, I’ve even had a paid subscription since 2007. Last.fm used to be a great way to exploring music and creating personalized radio station, but as time went they removed one essential feature after another. A few days ago they pulled the plug on personal radios and playlists (both were paid, subscriber-only features). I requested a refund immediately. This was the vital feature for me. It allowed me to label bands or albums with tags like “classical to check out”, “interesting” and then explore the tagged music by listening to the corresponding personal radios.
I set out to find an alternative. It turned out that many services are restricted by country, and are either not available at all in Czechia or are limited in functionality (like the U.S-centric Pandora and the Western-Europe-centric Spotify). Grooveshark looks like the most promising candidate. Like Last.fm, they have a $3/month subscription (but they plan to increase the price for those who start subscribing on December 1 or later). You can search for particular artists and play their music, you can create personal playlists from tracks, and there’s an automatically created radio based on your listening preferences. Not the same range of features that’s available on Last.fm, but at least the most important stuff works well. There’s even a desktop app and Last.fm scrobbling for subscribers. (The desktop app is admittedly a bit crappy, it’s made in Adobe AIR and eats 33 % of CPU time on my 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo MacBook, but I can’t hear the fan if I put the music loud enough…[pushing the volume up button])
Update: The web interface does not seem to be so CPU-intensive, when the it is not visible on the screen it needs only about 2 % of CPU. It looks like there must be some bug in the standalone player. After all both are based on (almost) the same technology (Adobe AIR/Flash) and they also look much the same. I’ve created a standalone app from the web interface using iCab. Seems to work nice ([pushing the volume up button]…yeah, much better).
Update November 21: There’s an experimental HTML5 web interface for Google Chrome users, but it works just fine in Safari or iCab. It looks identical to the Flash interface, but loads immediately and has negligible CPU impact. That’s nice. But what worries me is Grooveshark’s attitude to copyright:
“All of the music on Grooveshark has been uploaded by users. The main benefit of doing so is the ability to listen to your entire music library from anywhere you have an internet connection.”
Grooveshark’s terms of service:
“User Content shall not be illegal, […], infringing of intellectual property rights, […]. Prohibited User Content includes but is not limited to content that: […] (v) consists of an illegal or unauthorized copy of a copyrighted work, such as sound recordings, musical compositions and videos in which you do not personally own the copyright (including CDs and tracks you may have purchased), or otherwise do not have the necessary authority from the copyright owner(s); […].”
I’ve just asked Grooveshark’s support to explain how I can determine who uploaded the songs I’m listenting to (of course, artists and labels can upload content too) and whether there’s any list of labels and artists they cooperate with. I’ll post their reply if I get any.
Update November 22: I asked these two questions:
(1) Is there any way I can determine who uploaded a particular song I am listening to?
(2) Is there a list of labels or artists you are cooperating with?
I received a rather nice email explaining that I do not need to worry about any legal danger, it’s up to the labels to ask for content to be removed, and if they ask, Grooveshark removes the files. I guess that in principle this is no different than how YouTube works, except that most content on YouTube is probably legal. Still not sure if this is something I want to participate in.