Grooveshark, where anyone can upload music for other people to listen to (up to a point), is sort of like Napster-meets-Spotify. The company offers millions of free tracks without compensating copyright holders, with the legal defense that it cannot stop people from uploading whatever they want — and that it’s too hard to filter out tracks whose rightsholders prefer they not be available there. (Why then, we wonder, is it so good at filtering out The Beatles?)
When we met Grooveshark CEO Sam Tarantino last year, he was strumming a guitar in his office. Then he expounded at length on why he thinks recorded music should be free. One big reason: Bands make their money from touring anyway, so it doesn’t make sense to pay rightsholders similar rates to what Spotify pays.
Agree or disagree, this is the principle that drives Grooveshark. This week, the company revealed data from a little experiment it conducted in free music. In order to prove the value of its platform to promote bands so that they can make money in other ways, Grooveshark teamed up with a band called Quiet Company in July 2011 to see what would happen if Grooveshark “promote[d] the band in any way they saw fit,” in return for the band giving away its music.
The main takeaways:
- Quiet Company’s revenue from live shows doubled during the experiment.
- The band won over ten awards and earned “private investors” — fans who are willing to bankroll it on some level in return for a piece of the action.
- Grooveshark’s promotions bled over to other sites. Its popularity exploded: over 367K percent on Grooveshark, 4.5K percent on Facebook, 2.1K percent on Facebook, and 95 percent on Twitter, with plenty of new international fans finding out about them too.
Before you get too excited about this and decide that recorded music should be free because of a single experiment, it’s worth keeping in mind that Grooveshark skinned its entire site with 10 different promotions for Quiet Company — something it couldn’t do for, say, every band on Grooveshark, or even a hundredth of them. Still we’re intrigued: