Music streaming service Grooveshark has haunted the legal waters of the online music world for years. Some compared the creators to Robin Hood. Many called them pirates. Millions used their service to access possibly the most diverse pool of free, unlicensed music since Napster.
For those unfamiliar, Grooveshark’s admittedly naive business model was to grow so big with their impressive online software, user collective, and database resources that major labels would salivate at the opportunity to license their catalogs with GS, and thereby help GS go legit… and thereby go for an IPO.
Instead, a lawsuit tsunami blindsided the overly optimistic Florida-based company (“legal jihad” was a term used by one music company rep).
The result culminated last month in Grooveshark losing. As in they lost everything they’d created — patents, apps, user data, everything.
But then something very Robin-Hood-like happened; Grooveshark.com popped back up overseas as Grooveshark.io, which got shut down. Then GS popped up again under Grooveshark.li, which was again ripped down within a couple weeks.
Then this manifesto appeared on Digital Music News by an ex-employee gone rogue, and was quickly and brilliantly debated by DMN readers in the comment thread.
While Grooveshark’s fin hasn’t resurfaced since, it seems only a matter of time before it looms up again from the Deep Web, hungry for more carnage.
Yet does a service that only pops up for a couple of weeks just to be predictably ripped down again in its entirety really have a purpose, other than to be a continual pain in the ass to major labels and indie artists alike? After all, GS’s rogue ‘Robin Hood’ isn’t offering starving musicians anything other than the most-dreaded word in the creative universe: “exposure”.
What if GS flipped the script, and made use of one of its key features–finding obscure music not available anywhere else online? Instead of stealing from these one-of-a-kind artists, what if GS only offered licensed music by artists not attached to major labels, and not available anywhere else?
Sure, users would need to pay a small monthly (finders) fee for the service, but if there’s nowhere else to get the product, wouldn’t it be worth it for everyone involved? Certainly an idea Robin Hood and his Merry Men may have gotten behind.