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Grooveshark update worthy, not groundbreaking

Currently available to paying VIP members only, Grooveshark 2.0 is a solid update to my favorite free online music-streaming service.

A couple of weeks ago, my favorite free music-streaming site, Grooveshark, began rolling out version 2.0. It's currently available to paying VIP customers only, but I managed to finagle a pass and can report that it's a solid upgrade, although nothing groundbreaking.

Grooveshark's selection of free songs compares favorably with big commercial download stores like iTunes and Amazon MP3, and the improvements in version 2.0 are mostly geared toward helping you sift through search results more efficiently. For instance, now you can organize results alphabetically by song, artist, or album, and with one click you can add any song to your Grooveshark library, which makes it available on future log-ins without forcing you to run another search. Other than that, my favorite improvement was a slider bar that lets you fast-forward to any point in a song--a feature that we've long taken for granted on iTunes and most other commercial streaming and download services, but which didn't quite make the cut the first time around.

The new Grooveshark 2.0

So is it worth paying $3 a month to get these new features ahead of everybody else? I'd say yes--especially since most all-you-can-eat streaming services start at around $15 a month--if it weren't for Grooveshark's questionable legal status. The last time I asked the company about this, it responded by saying it was pursuing many different revenue streams---artist promotion, advertising, mobile subscriptions (if Apple approves Grooveshark's iPhone app as it did with Spotify, that would be a huge win), API licensing, and these VIP subscriptions. It also claims that it's been able to keep costs low. But there's enough question whether any of the recent crop of music start-ups can survive given current usage patterns versus licensing fees--never mind one that seeks to undercut big and well-established players like RealNetworks and Microsoft on streaming subscription prices. So, until the big labels and publishers give Grooveshark their explicit blessing, I'd advise caution--remember what happened to Zookz.

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