A closer examination of the differences between the popular music streaming applications Spotify and Grooveshark.
Image via CrunchBase
A few years ago the popular desktop and mobile application Spotify began to increasingly gain attention. The idea behind streaming an seamless unlimited amount of music was a brilliant one. No longer would you have to download the music files and fill up your computer. Most of my friends were and still are using Spotify on a daily basis.
Me myself however, didn’t have the financial stability as a student to keep an active subscription to the Spotify premium service. Spotify is cheap, but I feel that it isn’t cheap enough for the simple service it provides (about $15 USD per month just for some music). Then I found Grooveshark, a browser flash-based music streaming application with the same basic function, but with a huge difference; it was free. For quite a time I used Grooveshark (and Spotify) and I can say the both have their ups and downs.
Take notice that I haven’t tried the fairly new Sony Music Unlimited, or other simular services.
Spotify NA in Greece (Photo credit: Titanas)
The core functionality is of course the music. Both applications provide a vast library of music. However I find that Grooveshark provides a lot of fan made non-commercial music, like music from Newgrounds or special Youtube clip music. This is where Spotify seriously lacks. If there is a song you want to listen to, it’s more likely to find it on Grooveshark than on Spotify. Spotify also seriously lacks some proper commercial music. Take for example Metallica; maybe 1 or 2 original songs, rest is crappy covers. Now, I know this isn’t technically Spotifys fault (record dealers have actively denied their music on Spotify), but Metallica is on Grooveshark, so..
Spotify does have some praise though. One thing is that Spotify often has pre-released songs and special contracts with artists. New popular music (in particular pop and rock) is often found where quickly on Spotify, whereas on Grooveshark it may take some time.
Both provide radio but Groovesharks radio is based on genre, whereas Spotifys also have radio based on simular artists (which technically also is genre, but with a more strict search base). Noone provide real radio channels.
One of the key features in Spotify is that you can make tracks and playlists available offline. This saves a local copy of the tracks on your computer so you can play the songs even without an internet connection. This Grooveshark doesn’t, as it doesn’t comply with their business model.
One of the most important features though, is mobility. Both Spotify and Grooveshark provided applications for playing music on your mobile device, although in Grooveshark this is very quirky in comparision to Spotify. Spotify is readily available as an App Store application for example, whilst Grooveshark provides an HTML5 web-ui (requiring the use of the webbrowser, Safari) and a standalone application, this application require a jailbroken iPhone/iPod (a process which unlocks the posibilities with your iDevice but void the warranty and isn’t officially supported or garanteed to function). For other mobile devices there is only the web-based solution.
As far as desktop application goes, both provide standalone desktop application (although Groovesharks is built with the dependency Adobe Air). Spotify however, unlike Grooveshark, lacks an web-ui, which means that you are required to download the application (which could cause minor complications if you lack the permissions or are at someone Else’s computer).
User-friendlyness and 3rd party
I do find the Grooveshark web-ui very quirky at times (because of the flash-based system) and sometime it can be difficult to navigate. Spotify does navigation very well and provides a simple, straight-to-the-point ui, however Spotify does lack a vital component; an active playqueue. Grooveshark implements this well; you drag and drop the songs you want to play into the bottom playqueue and it plays the tracks with optional shuffle and repeat. Spotify though would require you to create a new playlist just for these track combinations. Spotify does have a play queue, but the songs that are queued are either from the active playlist or the results of your search. For example if you which to mix songs from two different playlists, you would need to create a new playlists and then manually add the tracks you want, even if you just want to listen to those tracks just this session.
Being (mostly) locked down to the web-ui, Grooveshark has no support for hotkeys, whereas Spotify does. This means that you are required to go to your Grooveshark window/browser-tab each time you want to modify the playback.
Spotify has support for some 3rd party applications. These are for example lyrics music control applications (for example by mood). Grooveshark doesn’t seem to provide any.
Both provide collaberative playlists (though Grooveshark recently incorporated this).
Spotify costs roughly $15/month for premium subscription. This basically remove ads, unrestricts amount you can play and enables mobile usage. Spotify Free limits the amount of songs you can play per day, plays ads in between tracks and doesn’t allow mobile usage.
Grooveshark costs $9/month form premium which enables mobile usage and the desktop application. Grooveshark displays sidebar ads on the web-ui and these are removed with either premium or plus ($6/month, also enables desktop application), but although discourage for the sake of supporting Grooveshark, can be disabled with ad-blockers. Grooveshark Free provides unlimited amount of music and no audio ads.
In conclusion, whatever service you choice to go with the both are good choices. Most people would go with Spotify though, with the huge library of popular music, the simple interface and the availability of the music. Spotify also does alot of promotionals with other companies (for example cellphone providers, where you get Spotify Premium free for 1 year, or something simular). Personally however I would go with Grooveshark (with premium) because of the cheap price but mainly because Grooveshark provides tracks, which Spotify simply doesn’t.