The Florida-based streaming service had been in something of a limbo status with Google after being blacklisted last summer, but has now been added as a featured app for Chromecast, Google’s popular TV device.
Grooveshark’s short history (it was founded back in 2007) is a checkered one.
Frequently beset by claims that it failed to officially license the music that it made available to millions of subscribers, the charge was made to stick in early 2013 when Universal Music Group had an appeal upheld against the company’s owners. Although the charge applied specifically to recordings earlier than 1972, it affected enough material to raise questions over the future of the service. Having already been removed from both Android and Apple app stores in previous years, Google’s subsequent blacklist of Grooveshark served only to further those doubts, leaving it firmly a footnote in music streaming as other services forged on.
Against that backdrop, the company seems to have learned the right way to go about the music business, having made agreements with most major labels and clearly pulling back into Google’s good books. The site is now more prominent in search and has been focusing on adding subscribers, which it claims has now reached a not insubstantial 20 million active users per month. With a library of around 15 million songs Grooveshark is still a few million short of prominent rivals like Spotify and Rdio, but it’s enough to give the service a say when it comes to winning over new listeners.
What Grooveshark can’t get back is time. In the three years that it has been fighting for its life, those competing services have gone from strength to strength in an expanding marketplace. The boom of mobile devices means that almost everyone has a go-to music app, whether a streaming subscription or ad-supported free access apps like Pandora and Songza. The former has scaled its challenges to become the premier player in the streaming radio space, while Songza was recently bought by Google and has all the big money backing that it requires to compete.
Meanwhile, Grooveshark’s funds have been depleted by legal challenges and its name dragged through the mud. That last point is less significant than having consumers even recognize the brand, though, as first-mover advantage has given Spotify and Pandora the advantage in their respective spaces. Listeners really only need one or two services when it comes to streaming music and the time for testing out different apps may be past.
It would be a shame if the service can’t stay afloat despite all these attempts to right its ship, but it does provide a sobering lesson to startups as to just how important it is to respect rights holders and get the financial model in place to support them, before setting sail in the shark-infested waters of streaming music.