Digital Grooveshark Timeline

Grooveshark chief says artist development a priority

By | Published on Monday 4 July 2011


The boss of sometimes controversial US-based streaming music service Grooveshark, Sam Tarantino appeared on Bloomberg recently – I think because of rising interest in the streaming content sector in the States post the silly money Pandora IPO – to discuss his business’s plans and legal status.

As previously reported, Grooveshark insists its business is legal, even though users can upload audio content meaning the platform will sometimes host music that is not licensed by rights owners. Deals are in place with EMI and many smaller labels and artists, and the company does operate the takedown system set out in America’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, though the other majors – Universal in particular – say that is not enough for Grooveshark to avoid liability for copyright infringement in relation to any unlicensed content they host pre-takedown notice.

That debate will be heard in the New York courts eventually thanks to a lawsuit pursued by Universal. In the meantime, Grooveshark insists its platform is no different to YouTube – a point CEO Sam Tarantino made several times in the Bloomberg interview – and therefore, the company argues, its service is no less legal than the Google-owned video platform. Universal might counter that YouTube has licensing deals in place with many more content owners, including all four majors.

Although much of the Bloomberg interview is made of talk about licensing – Tarantino mainly focuses on how hard it is to licence digital services, though at one point says a major problem is that labels have “margin issues” – perhaps more interesting is the brief discussion about the Grooveshark business model. Although admitting his company’s main revenues currently come from advertising and, for the mobile version, subscriptions, he described both of those income streams as “low margin”, and indicated that he sees his business’s future being in artist development and management.

Noting recent partnerships with bands like Quiet Company, Tarantino distinguished himself from his digital competitors by saying “we are very much about breaking new artists as a platform … we see artist development as being core to our business”, adding that Grooveshark’s artist relationships might see the company getting involved in touring and other revenue generating projects. Of course, that’s the one revenue stream which isn’t subject to major label licensing talks, which might be the reason behind the new focus, though it’s an interesting development, providing MySpace Records isn’t used as a model.

You can see the interview here.