Grooveshark under fire again, now with EMI

Well, it may come at no surprise, but Grooveshark has come under fire yet again. The international music streaming website is struggling with EMI, which was until recently the only major record label to license its music to Grooveshark. Now EMI has shredded their contract, citing Grooveshark’s failure to pay the last of four major installments.

Grooveshark was created by Sam Tarantino and Josh Greenberg in 2007, and since its creation, the website has experienced a frenzy of popularity among its users, which total more than 35 million. It also boasts the most extensive catalog of any online streaming website, seeing as how those 35 million users are free to upload and share any songs of their choice. Expectedly, it has not been quite as popular with record labels.

Grooveshark swam under the radar for quite some time, but non-paying users have probably noticed by now that instead of being able to automatically search for and play songs once getting to the website, they are prompted by a pop-up to donate any small amount of money they can in order to “keep the music going.” Declining to do so results in having to watch a short sponsored video. This may remind some of Pandora, which was once hip and groovy until it gained popularity, was sniffed out by major record labels, and became saturated with advertisements.

Grooveshark is just another player in the music copyright infringement battle and it is at odds with companies that fear the increasing lateralization of music distribution and access. Think of SOPA and PIPA, websites like 4shared, defeated players like Napster and LimeWire and “termination rights” which allow artists to regain control of their work from labels after 35 years. It’s a muddy battlefield. And as nice as it is to stream music for free, supporting websites such as Grooveshark with a couple bucks to help keep them afloat and ensure that they are not taken away from us along with their unique, ear-opening musical universes may be necessary.

Questions of legality aside, it’s sad to see a company that allows people to explore music so greatly in terms of breadth and depth struggle. Abandoned by EMI, Grooveshark’s future seems uncertain, but hopefully the little streamer manages to keep swimming.