I had a chance to finally test drive the new Grooveshark P2P music download site, and it’s been well worth the wait.
A while back I wrote about a soon to be unleashed new music download service where BOTH copyright holders as well as community content uploaders will be compensated.
As I mentioned, Grooveshark will broker music transactions between members, charging for the songs exchanged, and compensating copyright holders and users while providing the convenience and selection of P2P file-sharing in an online music community.
“Our bottom line is value. By bringing the convenience and selection of a peer-to-peer network together with the recommendation power of a community of friends — all the while removing DRM — we can generate revenue to compensate both copyright holders and users,” said Sam Tarantino, 20-year-old founder and CEO of Escape Media Group, the parent company of Grooveshark.
Songs will vary in price, but none will cost more than 99 cents. Grooveshark will then pay the appropriate royalties to music copyright holders by taking commissions from users’ transactions and then also compensate users with free music for community participation such as uploading songs, fixing song tags, flagging unwanted files or reviewing music. Members will be rewarded based on their level of contribution to the Grooveshark community. Additionally, all Grooveshark files will be DRM-free, allowing users to play the songs they purchase on any PC or portable digital music player.
Well, I’ve have had a chance to finally test drive Grooveshark, which is still in its BETA testing stages, and I must admit that I’m impressed.
To start, users download and run a small java-based plugin application which is used to actually upload and download content.
Uploaded content is made available by selecting which folders you wish to share with others in the “Preferences” section of the File tab. The content is only available to others when you are connected of course, as it isn’t actually uploaded to the site. Grooveshark merely facilitates the transfer of content amongst users.
As an example, I opted to share some of my friends work from his band “The Wagon.”
After you determine what music tracks or albums you wish to share with others, you then connect to the Grooveshark homepage to begin browsing. As you’ll notice in the screenshot below, you can preview or purchase tracks by simply clicking on the link next to each selection.
Previewing a track will stream it in the Grooveshark player at the top right-hand part of the page.
Purchasing of tracks is not yet available as the BETA release is still being perfected but, users will be able to either buy credit to download tracks or acquire through making music tracks available that others then download.
To check out what music is available, you can select from one of the users “currently online” and browse their listing of shared tracks. If you like what they have to offer you can add them as a friend so that you can stay on top of future content they may add to their shared library and also see what users may offer similar music selections.
You can also rate tracks which are then scored and saved accordingly.
Another cool feature is that you can create playlists with tracks that you like so that you can listen to them in the future or share with others.
Again what’s really cool with Grooveshark is that users will be able to benefit from music that’s otherwise idling away. You can put it to good use by sharing it with others and getting compensated in the process.
As was mentioned by Grooveshark before, “How our users originally acquired their music won’t matter to us; all that matters to us is that the copyright holders get appropriately paid for their work within our marketplace. We are embracing the power of p2p while enabling copyright compensation to occur. In a sense, we are legitimizing files that were once deemed “pirated”—once a file enters Grooveshark, any transactions of that file within our system will be legal, paid for, and will compensate the copyright holders.”
It’s a pretty good deal for everyone involved but, there have been some lingering questions as to whether or not copyright holders will embrace this sort of business model where users provide the content and the source of their acquisition is not vetted.
Well, I had a chance to talk with Michael Vroegop of Grooveshark, and he was kind enough to provide we with some “lawyer approved” answers to a few of my questions (Thanks again Mike).
What is the current state of talks with song writers, publishers, copyright holders, etc. and do you think they will embrace this new format?
Things are actually going pretty well. We continue to get positive vibes from lots of folks in the music industry. We’ve also got 2 of the 3 U.S Performing Rights Organizations on board for streaming rights and will soon announce 2 pretty awesome partnerships with independent labels. We’ve begun talks with publishers, whose biggest concern at the moment is how we’ll identify files, something that is being coded as I type. Our goal by August is to have all the minor and major independent labels and aggregators, PRO’s and publishers (either through HFA, RoyaltyShare, or filing for compulsory).
Users will be reimbursed for content that other users download, is there a stance that copyright holders have as to 3rd parties getting reimbursed for the redistribution of their content?
We have secured our first two major indie labels that will be paving the way for other labels to realize that our model is the future, and join us. For smaller labels and artists, we’re providing ways for rights-holders and artists to collect their money, we’ll soon have a page for them to sign up and collect their royalties on. I hesitate to speculate as to the stance of all copyright holders, but their primary concerns are that their fans get their music and that they get paid the proper royalties, and we definitely allow for both of these things to happen.
When do you expect a full-scale BETA release, or will it be staggered in stages?
Right now our goal is August for a polished Beta release, with a tolerance of ± 1 month.
What sort of ETA do you think Grooveshark has for a final release?
I’d rather not let out any other concrete dates, but from our Beta release on we’ll be constantly adding new features and improving the system even further.
Anything else you’d like to mention or address?
Our account request page is at http://alpha.grooveshark.com/signup.php , we’re still accepting alpha-testers right now. Later this week we’ll be adding new features and another round of culling from the requests, so sign up now if you’d like to give it a try.
Now whether or not the “Big Boy Labels” jump on board remains to seen but, if it proves lucrative and popular enough with indie labels and users they may just have a change of heart. Imagine if they could finally have a way to make money off of music files acquired from “questionable” sources? And those who acquired content from questionable sources would surely be willing to share their stash if they were decently rewarded for doing so.
I guess we’ll have to wait and see but, in the meantime I urge you sign up and check it out. You won’t be disappointed.
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