I think its fair to say that the Spotify honeymoon is well and truly over. When the online jukebox burst onto the scene in late 2008 it was greeted with fevered excitement, but the proliferation of annoying adverts and the recent clampdown on free users signals the end of the party and the start of a long and tough road towards making this large business profitable.
So what now if you’re not willing to shell out at least £5 a month for ad-free music? Well, since you asked – I’ve recently been introduced to an exciting music service called Grooveshark and on the surface it seems to be a serious rival for Spotify.
Lets start with the pros. There are no audio ads, just banners, which is something I find remarkable. As a result the listening experience is completely seamless. Secondly, it’s browser-based, so there’s no need to download any software or get an invite.
Of course there are a few drawbacks to consider. The selection of songs isn’t as comprehensive as Spotify, with only three 30 Seconds to Mars tracks on there for example, as they are uploaded by users. This approach has led to questions over the service’s legality, although they deny any copyright infringements and claim to have agreements in place with music labels.
Secondly, sometimes there is a small lag at the beginning of each song as they have to be buffered one by one. Finally, I have spotted one track that sounds like it’s been recorded off a radio station, only because there is a few seconds of a DJ talking at the end. Otherwise, the quality is superb, though.
On balance, it’s a hugely appealing service, especially considering that some major artists, such as Metallica, are on Grooveshark and not Spotify. You can also listen to genre-specific channels, which is great if you want to stumble across new acts.
Best of all, Grooveshark aren’t pushing the financial side of things particularly hard, with seemingly no limits on the free streaming service. Becoming a paying member ($6 per month) gets you the ability to remove banner ads and upload your own music, and they are also offering a 30-day bundle in conjunction with Lovefilm and Dominos Pizza for £12.50.
Grooveshark will surely look to sink its teeth into users once they’re hooked (pun intended), but for now it represents a great alternative to Spotify for discovering new music for free without any irritating interruptions.