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Popcorn Time rival adds music into the mix

By | Published on Tuesday 9 February 2016


While the music industry quickly fought off Aurous last year – the start-up app that pulled music content off the file-sharing networks and played it to users through a Spotify-style interface – the concept of piracy platforms that ape the streaming experience ain’t going anywhere. And one popular application that already has gained traction by offering access to unlicensed movies and TV shows has just added music into the mix.

Although not as high profile as rival Popcorn Time, Showbox has plenty of users, while its lower profile means it hasn’t been hit with the same kind of platform-killing legal action from Hollywood. The other USP of this app is that it is primarily designed for use on Android devices, bringing a free streaming-style service to mobile.

Previously it was all about film and telly show content, but on the mobile version of the app music has now been added, with lots of tunes to choose from. It’s not clear where the app is pulling that music from, though Torrentfreak speculates one source might be all the tracks swimming around the Russian social network vKonktakte, because Showbox previously tapped movies and TV programmes from there.

Users can also playlist and share music, and while the experience is not currently as swish as with legit services like Spotify, Showbox developers stress that the new music option is still in beta, and more refinements are to come.

It remains to be seen how the record companies respond to the addition of music on Showbox. Perversely, it sort of tests the theory that one way to expand the reach of the streaming music market is to bundle musical streams in with a video-on-demand service. But this isn’t the way the labels would like that theory to be tested.

The app isn’t available via either Google or Amazon’s Android app stores, so users have to have the savvy to access the software another way. But it’s thought the app has nevertheless got a significant userbase, which may be enough to justify the labels kicking the lawyers into action. Though taking on Showbox may be more tricky than with the one-man-band that was (more or less) Aurous. Going after the ad networks that seem to be pumping big brand commercials into the Showbox app would be a starting point.

Music being added to Showbox comes as a streaming option is also starting to appear on classic file-sharing hub The Pirate Bay. Utilising a new browser plug-in called Torrents-Time, the Bay is starting to add ‘stream it’ links next to the video files it lists. Clicking the link will make the video play in a pop-out window without having to leave the site, making the consumption of torrented files much easier for the user.

If the functionality was added to music, it wouldn’t quite compete with Showbox or the legit streaming services in terms of user-experience, though if some sort of playlisting option was added down the line, it would be a lo-fi competitor.

All of which is a reminder that, while one way to combat piracy is to simply make legit platforms that offer a much better experience, the piracy platforms are also getting more sophisticated, so the legal set-ups need to be constantly improving user-experience too.