Grooveshark “Offline by Christmas”… | Digital Music News

Infringement should not be a business model.

On September 29th, the United States District Court in Manhattan found Grooveshark guilty of massive copyright infringement, and specifically named CEO Sam Tarantino and CTO Josh Greenberg as bad actors. Now, the curtains are starting to drop: just days after that decision was rendered, federal judge Thomas Griesa issued another decision that removed all doubt that the plaintiffs — a total of 9 recording labels — had triumphed in the case.


While Artists are Bitching About Spotify Royalties… Google, YouTube and Grooveshark are in the Getaway Car…

While artists bitch about low payments from Spotify royalties,  YouTube,  Grooveshark and The Pirate Bay pay artists less or even nothing.  The reason Spotify pays so little is because it’s forced to compete with illegally operating, unlicensed sites who pay nothing at all. Artists need to focus on the big picture.

Spotify has become the symbol of inequity for artists in the digital age, and we’re not saying artists are wrong to focus on the Spotify royalty payments as an example of this inequity. We’ve written our own criticisms of Music Streaming Math and our doubts that Spotify could ever actually scale to be a sustainable business for both artists and labels.

Whatever the criticisms we may have of Spotify it is important to note that they are legal and licensed with secured rights.

The truth is that Spotify is only a symptom of a much larger disease.  The actual cause of the inequity is mass scale, enterprise level, corporate sanctioned piracy for profit. Ad Funded Piracy is the primary mechanism by which the work of artists and musicians has been devalued to fractions of cent and here’s how it works.

Imagine creating a business where you could profit by attracting every fan of every musician and band.

Imagine not requiring any licenses or permission from any of the musicians and bands.

Imagine selling advertising based on not only the overall popularity of the musicians and bands, but also from providing free streaming and/or downloads to the music of the musicians and bands.

Imagine not having to pay musicians and bands and keeping all of the advertising (and/or subscription/access fee) money.


One of the most accessible points of piracy starts at Google search and they can absolutely do more to assist legal and licensed businesses that pay artists. Digital Music News recently reported that “Google Receives Its 100 Millionth Piracy Notice. Nothing Changes…” As we’ve seen with Google’s swift retribution to Rap Genius, search can very effective to discourage or remove bad actors from the legitimate marketplace (When it is in Google’s business interest to do so!). Google is also tracking over 200,000 known domains engaged in active piracy. This seems like an easy problem to solve.

Not only did a series of research studies by the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab identify Google as one of the primary companies feeding advertising to pirate sites, but there is actually a longer darker history of Google assisting illegally operating business online.

Artists don’t get paid anything from pirate sites profiting from advertising revenue. This is the big one, those who pay nothing at all but distribute the most music at the highest volumes.


YouTube is a company that was intentionally founded and designed to profit by ripping off artists, musicians and creators. These practices are well known from court documents published by sources such as Daily Finance.

It appears that much of the music on YouTube may still be generating profit for YouTube but not so much for musicians. East Bay Ray of the Dead Kennedy’s details the state of things here on NPR.

Even when YouTube is paying, they are paying half as much (or less) than Spotify on a per play basis.


We’d love to hear from artists (musicians and songwriters) who actually have their music legally licensed on Grooveshark. And, for those who do, we’d love to see what some of those royalty statements look like. We can’t imagine that Grooveshark is paying better than Spotify and that’s only for those artists who may actually have a valid license from Grooveshark.

As of this writing Grooveshark is still embattled in a number of lawsuits, which at one time included every major label. Essentially Grooveshark designed their business to be like an audio and music only version of YouTube. We detailed their practices in the post “Grooveshark, Notice and Shakedown”.

We don’t know how much money Grooveshark is making, but it’s enough to put the companies founders on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List… It seems that it is the (new boss) gatekeepers controlling the money and once again it is the artists themselves getting screwed.


As of this writing Pandora has abandoned it’s ill conceived attempt at legislation that would have reduced artists royalties by 85%. But let us not forget that the arguments used by Pandora for attempting that move were also motivated by the downward economic pressure placed on artists whereby the majority of music consumption is happening with no compensation at all due to various forms of Ad Funded Piracy.

Welcome to the Exploitation Economy.

We suggest that artists focus on the disease that is creating the symptoms of businesses like Spotify.


Google, Advertising, Money and Piracy. A History of Wrongdoing Exposed.

Lou Reed and Dead Kennedys Go Public Against Ad Funded Piracy with Facebook Posts

Band Quiet Company says Internet Has Made Things Worse for Artists “New Boss is Worse Than Old Boss”

A decade into the snake oil and lies of the empowered internet musician the truth bares itself out over and over again. In a recent case study the band Quiet Company said of their promotional experiment with Grooveshark in an interview with Digital Trends,

“I think for years now, as far as back as [Quiet Company] has been together, people have been talking about how different the music industry is and how the Internet has changed everything and how we’re all looking for a new model.”

“After everything, I’m not sure there is a new model. The old model is still the model, it’s just that the Internet made it way worse.”

We’re not surprised in the least as we’ve previously noted how Grooveshark’s infringement based business model could easily be described as “Notice and Shakedown.” Even tech progressive artists such as Zoë Keating have struggled with the service. Zoë could not get her music removed from the site after issuing at least six DMCA notices to Grooveshark.

So it’s strange to us despite there being near universal agreement on just how bad this service is for artists that some people still don’t get it. Of course these always seem to be the same people that defend every other service that rips off musicians and pays them nothing like The Pirate Bay.

One tech blog actually said after the Pirate Bay verdict, “The folks this will hurt the most are those content creators who actually do value The Pirate Bay.” But we doubt that as it’s not like there aren’t tons opportunities for artists to give away their work willing, with consent, should they so chose. What we find most disturbing is why the choice of consent to give away one’s work should be forcefully take from them by companies who are profiting from advertising revenue?

It’s all pretty simple. Artists need to get paid and so many of these so called “new models” seem to be built on the “new model” of not paying artists anything at all, or next to nothing at all. Again, from Digital Trends,

But now the contract is up and not being renewed, because – you guessed it – a monetization strategy couldn’t be found for Grooveshark. “We were the test monkeys,” says Osbon.

Once again we see that The New Boss is Worse Than The Old Boss, indeed. We’re not surprised, we know there’s a lot of money being made on the internet in music distribution, it’s just not being “shared” with musicians. So once again we ask where are all of these self empowered, independent new middle class musicians? The answer is, like most things where the truth is self evident, they just don’t exist.

The Trichordist Random Reader Weekly News & Links Sun May 13

Grab the coffee!

Last week the UK ordered it’s ISPs to block access to The Pirate Bay, the Dutch are getting fed up too…,2817,2404269,00.asp

[Related]Pirate Bay angered over Faux Pirate Bay Proxies…

ASCAP President Paul Williams gives an impassioned speech to membership about Artists Rights…

Facebook removes Grooveshark App…

MP3 tunes files for bankruptcy, owner/founder still on the hook…

Music Industry discusses improved music discovery via TV Co-Viewing Apps…

Copyhype Debunks the Copyleft Theory of Hollywood Built On Piracy…

Lamb Of God’s Randy Blythe Speaks Out for Younger Bands…

The Onion Reports on the “Bold Move” or “Charging for Content”…,19847/

Support the people supporting Artists Rights on the Hill, the Trans Pacific Partnership progresses…

and… then there’s this…

Fantastic talk by Robert Levine author of “Free Ride” on the Failure of The Internet to create better opportunities for Artists & Creators and the work to be done.

Grooveshark On The Hook : Notice and Shakedown

We salute Tunecore CEO Jeff Price who recently called for a boycott of Grooveshark on his company Blog. This after a series of articles from varied and respected media outlets such as Digital Music News, Hypebot, Billboard, and others who have been reporting on Grooveshark’s unethical practices against artists and the resulting lawsuit by the major labels.

But this isn’t just about major labels, it’s also about indie artists and labels who have been victim to Grooveshark’s practices for years. Just one example is from Helienne Lindvall who detailed her attempts to have her music removed from the site in painstaking detail, to no avail. Later we’ll show how other artists and labels experience is exactly the same as hers.

Grooveshark illustrates the failing of the DMCA by creating an incentive to build a business on infringement. Previously YouTube did it and that practice is now at the center of the recently appealed, billion dollar lawsuit with Viacom. At the heart of the matter is ethics.

The DMCA was designed to protect Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from liability if they had no knowledge of infringing material. The DMCA was also designed to provide protection for artists to have their work removed from an ISP (website, etc) if it was discovered to be there. In other words, the DMCA was drafted to give a little latitude to reasonable people acting reasonably and to empower artists to protect their rights without having to file a federal copyright lawsuit.

Grooveshark, like YouTube before it, has exploited this loophole in an attempt to build a business on infringement. The attraction of this business model is substantial as there are no licenses, fees or negotiations and no artist royalty payments, ever. All they have to do is plead ignorance, and wait for the DMCA notices to come in. And, once the notices come in, just wait for another user to upload the same material again. And so it goes on and on; the DMCA dance of death until artists are too exhausted or broke to continue.

The really insidious part of the Grooveshark model is representative of the old saying, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness later, than to ask for permission.” This is also known as “negotiation via lawsuit.” Grooveshark’s strategy appears to be: lure in artists as they seek to have their illegally exploited work removed, and then try to get the artist to sign a license agreement. This heavy handed approach has been aptly titled, “Notice and Shakedown.” Thankfully, a lot of artists are smart enough to question such shady practices.

We know of at least one indie label who when they contacted Grooveshark to take down offending material were met with the smarmy onslaught and the hard sell.  You can see the pitch here in the first sentence of a DMCA query on the site.

“If your music was posted up without your permission and you’d like to have it removed, please click here to access our DMCA takedown form — we highly recommend, however, that you contact us first to talk about ways that Grooveshark can fairly compensate you for your music!”

Ah, yeah right. Exploit my work, then try to negotiate with me (using fuzzy math based on Spotify model) about how much you are not going to pay! At least Spotify is legal, and I can actually remove my titles. But it doesn’t end there.

“You have full control over all songs in music catalogue. This includes the option of removing them all together. It only takes a minute just follow these steps:”

Uh, yeah, ok, but keep in mind at this point, Grooveshark is only helping me to “manage my catalog” which just happens to be on the site illegally. Also removing the songs via their “rights management” system avoids a DMCA takedown. The entire set up of Grooveshark is to engage artists and content owners in a conversation to negotiate with Grooveshark, on Grooveshark’s terms because guess what, they already have your music illegally, and they’re not paying you. But wait there’s more…

“Currently, songs can only be removed one at a time – we’re sorry if this is an inconvenience. Please let us know if you need any help along the way”

Yes, you can help me. You can remove my catalog from your site that I didn’t give you permission to profit from by monetizing it against advertising. And the way to do that is to click on the DMCA form for a proper take down. Of course, you’d hope this would be the case, but unfortunately not so as witnessed by this report on Digital Music News from famed guitar legend Robert Fripp which is nearly identical to that of Helienne Lindvall. Even classical indie artist Zoe Keating could not get her music removed from the site after issuing at least six DMCA notices to Grooveshark.

As if all this we’re not bad enough CNET reported on internal emails that show how Grooveshark was intentionally using the illegal exploitation of artists work as the basis for it’s business model. Unfortunately, not everyone sees this practice as deceitful and unethical; TechDirt has rallied to support Grooveshark despite serious complaints dating back to 2009 by indie label DashGo.

Ultimately we’re encouraged that one of the things the internet is really good at is sharing information. As more artists become educated about their rights, and how they are being exploited, we can see that they are speaking out against these unethical attacks to their livelihood.