Grooveshark has been a personal favourite music streamer for a few years now, particularly since Spotify took half their music offline to non-subscribers and nerfed the free membership. That’s not to say that Grooveshark is perfect– far from it. The interface has been in need of an update for a while, and finally the service has a new lease of life. Gone is the single, crammed page with umpteen scroll bars and at-times laggy response – Grooveshark just evolved! So is it any good?
The biggest change to Grooveshark is the multiple-page layout you’re now forced into using, which is definitely for your own good. Instead of having your music always to the left of what you’re listening to, it now appears on the My Music page. Friends and other users you follow now appear on the Community page, and Searchis fairly self-explanatory.
The new Explore page is somewhat exciting, as it offers something Grooveshark has never really had before – a way of discovering new bands, artists and songs you may like (but more on that later). Each of these sections is easily accessible regardless of what you’re doing thanks to the new persistent navigation bar at the top of the page. It’s tremendously fast at switching sections even on the ageing Linux laptopI’m using for this review. The main issue with the old Grooveshark interface was the clutter and by splitting these sections up the developers have made the website a nicer place to be and sped the whole experience up a notch.
The playlist area appears rather untouched, and remains tricky to scroll using the mouse pointer alone (though obviously, it’s a cinch with a scrollwheel). I particularly like the fact that the playlist now collapses and snaps to a smaller version instead of forcing a square album-art view (though to be honest with you I might just never have noticed that feature before).
Discovery & Sharing
Music discovery has been properly introduced in this version of Grooveshark, and it’s a great relief to finally see it implemented. Much of my previous Grooveshark use would revolve around me already knowing exactly what I wanted to listen to before visiting the service, and the radio servicenever really did it for me. In essence developers have added a whole new reason to visit the website and use their service – and this is most definitely a good thing.
The Explore page is split into three sections – Featured, Popular and Stations. The latter two aren’t too interesting, with Popular listing the most popular tracks and artists on Grooveshark right now and Stations being a portal to the radio feature which plays randomly from a genre. The Featuredpage lists both artists and new releases that the Grooveshark staff have deemed worthy of being in the spotlight. Hovering one of these new releases displays that enticing “play” logo and clicking adds the release to your playlist without moving you around the website. This is progress, as it takes only a few minutes of clicking before you’ve got hours of new music to listen to.
Once you’ve found something you like you’ve now got the option of pinning it to your pinboard, as well as the usual add to playlist/library options you know and love. The pinboard appears on the My Musicpage and provides quick access to subscriptions, radio channels and of course anything else you fancy pinning there. Aside from this small addition, your music library won’t look much different from what you remember, and it works – so that’s a good thing.
Last but certainly not least there is now a faster way of sharing the music you love with friends and social networks. By clicking on a song and dragging it to the right a new menu appears with options for adding that song to your music, favourites, a playlist or a selection of social channels including Twitter and Facebook. It’s not going to change the world but it works fairly well (so does right-click).
The Problem With Grooveshark…
I never expected a simple interface update to solve what I consider to be the main issue with the Grooveshark service: the mess. I won’t dwell on it too much but I’m referring to dud music listings, bad metadataand incomplete albums or EPs. Artists appear multiple times, with multiple spellings. Some albums have repeat tracks or are missing most of the listings and the search often suggests “helpful” phrases which lead you to aforementioned erroneous results.
This should be the next phase for Grooveshark – the cleanup. The service is free, granted, but Grooveshark do actually charge a fee for access to Grooveshark Anywhere (the only way to ‘shark on the go) and Grooveshark Plus (ad-free) – neither of which I would consider with the library in its current state.
Grooveshark’s new interface and features are very much welcomed but you’re going to have to contend with the usual mislabeled messy collection whilst using the service. It’s not a dire affair, and once you’ve started to build up a music collection it becomes less of an issue. It is very nice to finally have a proper discovery section thanks to the Explore page, and overall the interface is smoother and far less claustrophobic so well done Grooveshark. What do you think of the new Grooveshark interface and features? Does the library bother you? Anything you’d like to see added to the service in future? Let us know what you think in the comments below.