Years and years ago, back at the dawn of the Internet age, there was this thing called Winamp.* Once upon a time, it was the best way to listen to MP3 files, before iTunes swallowed all music sales and Pandora and Spotify convinced us to stream, rather than download, our favorite music. But the best part of Winamp was Shoutcast, which was a plugin that allowed regular users to create playlists and broadcast them to other listeners.**
I was one of those early Internet broadcasters, using an always-on desktop PC and a crappy cable broadband connection in the early aughts to enable others to listen to my crappy taste in music. Those were the days.
Anyways, a lot has changed since then, and there aren’t that many great apps for creating human-curated broadcasts of all their favorite music. Sure, you can make a Spotify-type playlist and share it with friends. But a lot of people shuffle that shit, so they don’t really realize how painstakingly you crafted it to ensure just the right transitions between songs and mood. Also, there’s no way for you to add your own voice or commentary, or fake commercial breaks.
Well now there’s a solution. Grooveshark, the streaming music site, has created a way for its users to create their own live streaming playlists, enabling them to share their favorite music, complete with their own personal interruptions. The Grooveshark Broadcast feature, which becomes available later this week, basically enables anyone to become an online music DJ, creating live and on-demand broadcasts that anyone can listen to.
Broadcast works just like creating any other playlist, except that, well, it’s there for anyone to listen to. In fact, that’s encouraged. After putting together songs on the fly, Grooveshark users will have social sharing features to connect with Facebook and Twitter and let their friends and followers on those platforms know what’s up and what they should listen to.
As silly as it sounds, the thing that sets Grooveshark’s Broadcast apart from playlists that you can build anywhere else is the ability to easily provide commentary. Back in my Shoutcast days, that meant recording my own music files to stitch in-between the music I had picked. With Grooveshark, there’s a built-in recording option for users to add their own voice in-between streamed songs.
There’s real-time chat, which lets you interact with fans, as well as features that enable listeners to make requests and vote for songs to be added to the mix. All in all, it’s a more engaging experience than just tuning in to someone’s lame online mix tape.
Anyway, Grooveshark continues to plod along despite being in fairly questionable legal territory with its music streaming service. After being booted from both the Apple App Store and Google Play — multiple times, even — the company rolled out an HTML5 mobile app that circumvented all that. The company’s been sued by Universal Music Group, and it’s failed to strike licensing deals with most of the major record labels.
Even so, the folks at Grooveshark imagine a day in which they’ll be able to collect ad revenue and share it with the new Internet broadcasters who take advantage of their platform. (Presumably they’d also share those revenues with the labels, but we’ll see.) In the meantime, you can be one of those DJs by signing up at preview.grooveshark.com. The actual service is expected to go live to everyone beginning this Wednesday.
* It really whipped the llama’s ass.
** I’ve learned, in the writing of the above paragraph, that both Winamp and Shoutcast somehow, amazingly, still exist, despite being owned by TechCrunch parent AOL for nearly 15 years. Also, I am old.