After being found guilty of massive copyright infringement for uploading unlicensed tracks to its streaming service, Grooveshark is finally going straight on mobiles with a standalone app for its year-old social radio Broadcasts service. Set to arrive on iOS and Android in January 2015, the app will cost 99 cents a month and will combine user-created radio stations with a chat function that co-founder and chief executive Sam Tarantino says will "change the ballgame."
Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Tarantino argues that Broadcasts is cheap enough to be bought on a whim but expensive enough to generate significant revenue for the embattled company. However, even if Grooveshark can get its reported 30 million web users on board it’ll still be far behind the current industry leader: the free, ad-supported Pandora, which boasts 77 million monthly users.
Offering a digital radio app means avoiding negotiating licensing fees with labels
Although the Broadcasts app sounds like a last-ditch attempt to save the company, it’s certainly savvy. By taking the digital radio route rather than offering a full-blown streaming service like Spotify, Grooveshark can avoid the hassle of negotiating licensing rights with record labels and will instead only have to pay government-mandated royalties to keep everything nice and legal. (Its previous apps were removed from the App Store and Play Store for copyright infringement. Groveshark then tried to side-step this by releasing a HTML5 web player.)
Considering that the company’s court case with Sony, Warner, and Universal ended in October this year with co-founders Josh Greenberg and Tarantino found guilty of personally uploading 6,000 unlicensed tracks to the site, butting heads with music execs is something that Grooveshark will be only too keen to dodge.