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Grooveshark to launch monetised artist profiles

By | Published on Thursday 18 October 2012


Controversial streaming music service Grooveshark – which lets users upload content to its libraries – has a pretty major upgrade incoming at the start of next month, which will add some drag-and-drop functionality, better playlisting options, and some sharing and recommendation tools, but, probably most importantly, also introduce artist-managed profiles.

That will allow artists to set up their own profile on the Grooveshark platform, adding and removing tracks, communicating with fans, posting blogs and such like. While basically offering the same artist profile functionality as MySpace, Facebook et al, the USP on Grooveshark will be that users will be encouraged to make donations to artists they like via the Flattr micro-payment system. Users can put a set some of money into their Flattr account, and then tag which artists they would like to share that cash with.

It will be interesting to see whether any artists embrace that new element of Grooveshark. The introduction of the monetised artist profiles is presumably part of the controversial digital firm’s bid to present itself as a champion of artists, despite its various legal disputes with the big band major music companies.

Though, as previously noted, plenty of artists have also been vocal in their opposition to the streaming service, which some accuse of exploiting a loophole in the American copyright system to build a business around unlicensed content, while avoiding liability for copyright infringement by operating a deliberately shoddy takedown system, that assures legal impunity at the same time as being able to offer a large catalogue of major label/artist content without permission.

All the majors are currently involved in litigation against the digital company, mainly over the allegation that Grooveshark staffers also upload unlicensed music to the service as well as the firm’s users. If proven, that would stop the company using the safe harbour protection of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Meanwhile the record industry is thought to be quietly lobbying American lawmakers to write into law minimum standards for takedown systems without which DMCA protection would not apply.

Artists signed to major music companies will likely be discouraged from setting up profiles on Grooveshark, or at least banned from posting tracks to the platform (the actual music generally be owned and/or controlled by the label/publisher rather than the artist, of course). And if music by signed artists was posted to the profile, it would create issues around who should receive any monies generated via the Flattr service.

Of course for self-releasing artists that’s not a problem, and a Grooveshark artist profile may be attractive for unsigned bands looking for any possible revenue stream. Though for Grooveshark itself, most of those acts will not be adding content that is of major value to the digital firm’s wider audience via its streaming platform.

The alliance with Flattr is interesting too. That is a service co-created by Pirate Bay co-founder Peter Sunde, which probably won’t go down well with the big music companies either. Especially given the ambiguities around Sunde’s stake in the business, which lawyers for the music and movie industries are interested in given his liability for the $7 million (plus interest) in damages he and his fellow Bay founders were ordered to pay when they where found guilty of copyright infringement in Sweden, but which all four TPB defendants have so far said they are too broke to pay.

All of which means the reaction of labels and artists to the all new Grooveshark will be very interesting.