Internet Radio Experiment, Part 4: Grooveshark (& Rhapsody)

First off, I’m going to send Rhapsody to the garbage pile immediately. They only allow 25 song plays per month; if you want more, you have to pay $12.99 per month.

This week, I’ve been testing the Grooveshark service. As with most internet music sites, there’s a paid version that goes for $3/month or $30/year. But I’m just using the free version, because I’m a cheapskate.

Clean and neat. Queue and player along the bottom.

Clean and neat. Queue and player along the bottom.

As far as making playlists and listening to specific songs anytime I want to, Grooveshark is the new winner. It’s almost more like a huge collective hard drive of music, with contributions from users, than it is a regular service. You can play any song instantly. You can play it over and over again, without limits. You can build and save playlists with any number of songs, and play them whenever you like. It’s far and away the best service I’ve found for playing what you want, when you want.

The selection of music is surprisingly large, I suppose because it’s contributed by users all over the world. Not only do they have every Duran Duran song I’d ever want to listen to (including the very hard to find “To the Shore,” which was dropped from their first album on re-issue to be replaced with “Is There Something I Should Know”). I’ve been able to find almost every rare thing I can think of, including the soundtrack to the 80s cartoon movie Animalympics and the original soundtrack to the videogame Psychonauts. If there are songs you own that aren’t on there, you can upload them to your account (and by doing so, share them with the world).

The interface can be a little sluggish at times, as it’s a big Flash program. But for the most part, search is snappy and there’s very little, if any, delay between songs. The player runs along the bottom of the screen, and you don’t have to navigate away from the player to browse or search. There’s one skyscraper ad banner on the right side, which isn’t too distracting. They even have a variety of themes to make the player pretty (although the coolest themes are reserved for the $3/month “VIP” members).

So it does playlists, but how about new music discovery? It’s available, but it’s not the best. Formerly called “Autoplay” and now called “Radio”, Grooveshark lets you put a song (or two, or three, or more) in your queue, then will feed similar songs. But it’s a bit too predictable — a couple of Duran Duran songs (my usual baseline) got me some Depeche Mode, some Cure, and Billy Idol. I think if I’m in the mood for discovery, I’ll head back over to Pandora, where they use the very cool music genome project to make more interesting and unexpected offers of new music.

If you wanted to pay, what does your $3/month or $30/year get you? More themes, more server space for your uploaded music, and a higher number of “favorite”-marked songs. You also get no ads, first shot at trying out any new updates, more screen size adjustability, and it appears there’s a desktop player (but it’s hard to find out information without ponying up the dough).

So there it is: Grooveshark is the new top dog for playlists and immediate specific-song playback. And it’s even earned a spot in my favorite bookmarks bar up at the top of IE. And I feel like I’m supporting a local business, since they’re based here in sunny Florida.

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13 Comments

  1. Huh, I’ll have to take a look at Grooveshark. Their model sounds very much like what mp3.com used to do – wonder how long until the RIAA dons the wrestling mask for a smackdown…

    Have you tried streaming online audio feeds? Even itunes has links to several of these. Also, many radio stations (e.g., KMTT 103.7 in Seattle) stream their programs.

    missy Reply:

    I’m not too big on actual preprogrammed radio stations; for the most part, I like to listen to my own stuff, playlists I’ve put together. And when I’m in the mood to find some new music, I’d rather use something like Pandora, which compares new stuff to what you’re currently listening to, than the mix that radio gives.

    Maybe it’s also the several years I spent working in radio that have soured me on the business. At any rate, I <3 playlists.

  2. Wow, it almost sounds like the old napster, where users provided the content and shared with everybody else – does it have live chat feature, too?

    missy Reply:

    It does feel similar to the old Napster, but it’s a lot cleaner and prettier. I don’t think there’s chat; at least I’ve never seen it anywhere. You can add other people and browse their playlists, but looking at it right now, you can’t even send them a message. But I’m OK with that — the only person I’ve added is Scott, and I can message himin other ways. Otherwise, I’d never use chat if they had it.

  3. Can I suggest Slacker? I think I just did – it’s a pretty sweet service, and I honestly can say I no longer use any other internet radio.

    missy Reply:

    Yeah, Slacker was my #2 entry in the internet radio experiments. It’s really good, but it’s just behind a couple of other services as far as meeting my needs.

  4. It’s funny – two months ago I would have said I was the same model as you: I knew what I wanted, and that’s what I wanted. Period. I’ve always been the kind of person who falls in love with one band for a few years, listening to almost nothing but them, then discover some other band and switch. This year I fell for some 80’s punk, but those bands tend to not last long. They’re lucky of they get a second CD out. And listening to one CD for a whole year just isn’t optimal. But I don’t follow music and don’t know what’s out there.

    Enter Pandora. Now I’m all about music discovery. My punk station is tuned to the “sound” I like, and I’m still discovering new bands with it.

    Anyway, thanks for researching these and reporting on them. Sounds like Pandora is good for my purposes.

    missy Reply:

    Pandora is totally my go-to choice for new music discovery. But I have to be in the mood for it, which is the minority of the time.

  5. Last.fm

    But then again I am in the UK.

    missy Reply:

    Last.fm is a good one — it was one of the first players I checked out. I like that I can build a library of stuff I love, and just play the songs from that library. Also, it has an Android app, which Grooveshark doesn’t.

  6. The soundtrack to Animalympics? There was a soundtrack to that film?! I thought I was the only person on the whole planet who even WANTED there to be a soundtrack to that film. Wow.

    I mean, I always knew I was nerdy when it came to obscure film-related trivia & whatnot, but that this information actually fills a tiny void in my life means… well, who knows what it means? Still, thanks for sharing! (Pandora has been a favorite of mine that came recommended by a friend; now I’ll have to check out Grooveshark, too.)

    missy Reply:

    I have a wish list on the TiVo set for Animalympics, because someday, some channel is going to run it. And I can go back in time and be a delighted kid again.

    I still have a copy on VHS, even though I don’t have a videocassette player anymore.

  7. Ha, I never got a VHS copy myself, but years ago, thanks to my hearty recommendation to a local public library director, my (then) local library got a copy.

    Sorry for going off-topic. I’m just amazed anyone else has even heard of that film, let alone its soundtrack. Best of luck with the TiVo wish list!

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