In many ways, Grooveshark was the Napster of the mid 2000s. And like Napster, it’s now dead. After years of legal battle, on April 30 2015 Grooveshark finally succumbed to the pressure of big music labels, deciding to settle the lawsuit. Shutting down the service, wiping their servers and handing over their patents in the process.
Grooveshark came to the scene after iTunes had already disrupted the music industry and pulled a sizeable population of pirates away from Napster. These folks just wanted an easy and awesome way to download and listen to music. In early 2000, that way just happened to be illegal. When iTunes came about, they didn’t mind paying $0.99 a song. This was mostly in North America.
As popular as iTunes got in the US, and maybe the UK, it didn’t translate well to other markets where a dollar a song was still too much. More than a satisfying meal in some regions.
Grooveshark became popular because it let users upload their own music that was then indexed, easily searchable globally and users could also create playlists (user generated playlists turned out to be a great music discovery tool). Anyone could play the music uploaded by any other Grooveshark user.
Geeks and nerds who got pleasure from evading walled gardens took to it. You could find all kinds of music at Grooveshark. Till its last breath, it was famous for hosting the indie-est of the indie songs and “underground music” you wouldn’t really find anywhere, except maybe on torrent sites.
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All The Great Music
In a way, Grooveshark was an open playground. It was great for musicians uploading their own music and sharing with the world. But, of course, that wouldn’t last. Soon mainstream music showed up. Nobody cares when a website is hosting pirated copies of a Belgium-based band with a fan base in thousands.
It’s when you’ve got Beyonce, Eminem, Akon and the likes when the music industry pays attention. And they did. In 2010, the copyright infringement lawsuits started hitting. In the same year the Grooveshark app was removed from the App Store.
Until the day it went down, Grooveshark had diehard fans. One of those people is my close friend. I asked him what he thought about it and his reply was, and I quote, “Sucks. Let me cry.” More about that conversation in the screenshots below.
When There Are No Real Alternatives
What Grooveshark was doing was illegal. Now it’s gone and there are no real alternatives. You won’t find a centralized network that lets users freely upload songs and lets the whole world access it. If you want to continue to pirate, you’ll need to go back to torrenting, download stuff and then figure out syncing songs with different devices and more.
But the online music streaming space is a lot better now than it was in 2008 or 2010.
If you can stand the ads, just look at the free tiers for Spotify, Rdio or Pandora. You’ll probably find your indie heros on SoundCloud. For streaming on the web, these are great. If you want unlimited offline access, and a better mobile experience, you’ll need to pay up – $9.99 a month.
You can turn to something like 8tracks or Deezer as well. But again, you’ll get you the social, crowd-sourced element from Grooveshark but you won’t find everything there. Not unless your favorite indie band has made a deal with them. To satisfy the discovery aspect, you could turn to Last.fm.
If you’re in the US, Google Play Music All Access might interest you. You get access to 30 million songs, plus you’re free to upload your own songs – upto 20,000 of them and they work flawlessly with Play Music’s collection. It’s $9.99 a month but you’re getting the best of both worlds. The advantages of cloud-based streaming service plus access to all your indie songs anywhere you go.
You’re now standing at the crossroads. You can either just sigh and finally sign up / pay for a streaming service of your choice. If the kind of music you listen to is mostly mainstream or mildly popular indie, Spotify and Rdio will do you good (I went with Rdio because here in India the premium plan is only $2/month).
Or maybe you’re going to let your pirate flag fly high. In that case, you already know what to do.