Jul 22

gslogoThis free web application I discovered via a ReadWriteWeb digest on streaming music apps allows you to listen to any song on demand. There are no audio ads interjected and the only ad displayed at all is an unobtrusive skyscraper on the right. The sound quality is excellent and the interface is a treat. It’s like a free Rhapsody service with a UI that doesn’t suck.


The Good

Couple this app (a “music vetting” tool) with other discovery-focused apps like Last.fm and Pandora and you have an easy way to find and test new music. The 30sec samples you get from iTunes just aren’t enough to decide whether you want to buy an album. I’ve found that I typically need to live with the songs for a few days for them to grow on me. With Grooveshark you can listen to an entire album on demand and and then share a URL that instantly plays an album or specific track. They’ve made it so the service doesn’t require any registration to use and works within a couple seconds of the first page load. The advantages of registering appear to be the ability to save playlists, love tracks and sync recommendations with networks like Facebook and StumbleUpon. So far I’ve been using it without registration and it delivers exactly what I want.

What needs fixing

I only have two minor gripes about the app so far:
1. Duplicates: As well done as the interface is they should add a little bit of intelligence to the queueing so it removes duplicate tracks. For some reason there seems to be quite a few duplicates even within the same album sometimes. I would think they could default it to recognize when the name of the track is identical and have it weed out the duplicates.
2. Auto track ordering: The tracks on an album are intended to be listened to in a certain order however Grooveshark jumbles the ordering for some reason. It would seem trivial to hit an external service like Amazon or iTunes to order the tracks properly so clicking the play button on the album yields the same experience as playing the tracks sequentially in iTunes.

Both of these issues are miniscule in relation to how good (and free) the service is and both can be corrected by manually tinkering with the playlist once it’s created. But these two tiny improvements would make the service flawless IMHO.

My concern

So at this point my only real concern is: “how can they possibly be making enough money to sustain it?” This is a service for which I would happily pay $5-10/mo. They have to be paying the ASCAP royalties on every song they stream. Given that there are no audio interruptions and that I typically listen to it with the interface minimized anyways (plus when I AM looking at it, the ad displayed is so unobtrusive I don’t notice it) I wonder how they can be covering the bandwidth charges and streaming royalties. It would be a shame to see this disappear. Kudos to them if they have a different model in mind and are just grabbing eardrums right now. Their Compete traffic graph certainly indicates that they’re doing something right. I just hope the service doesn’t go away as I’ve vowed to never give Rhapsody another dime and this is currently filling that void.

What music discovery and vetting apps do you use?

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