TuneCore: We Must Boycott Grooveshark. We Must Pressure Their Advertisers

This is a battle that appears to be bleeding beyond the major labels.

We’ve seen the markings of a broader artist and industry backlash, and now, there’s this.  The sharpest attack on Grooveshark is now coming from TuneCore CEO Jeff Price, an artist champion who spends most of this time fighting against the majors.  Yet on Friday, Price tore into the company for failing to compensate his artists and blatantly exploiting legal loopholes.  In fact, Price is now urging his massive indie and DIY community to boycott the company, and directly contact Grooveshark advertisers to pressure change.

Here’s Price’s argument, as first published on Tunecore’s blog (reprinted with permission)…

_______________________________

“Let me start by saying I don’t like Grooveshark.  Actually, in my opinion, they knowingly and willingly use a legal loophole to steal from artists and songwriters.”  

“Even worse, they try to defend themselves by having the attitude of ‘hey, we love artists and all we are doing is trying to support them.’  What a load of crap.  And as many of you may know, they are getting sued left and right for copyright infringement.

So what does Grooveshark do? When you click the ‘about’ link on their website, a little pop-up box appears that says:

‘Grooveshark is the world’s largest on-demand music streaming and discovery service.’

What this means is that anyone can go to Grooveshark, and, for FREE, type in the name of an artist and then play any recording by that artist in the Grooveshark system.  Users can make playlists, stop, start, skip and basically listen to what they want, when they want, with little-to-no restrictions.

And guess what, allowing anyone to listen to anything they want with basically no restrictions got them a whole bunch of users. How many?  According to their little pop-up box:

‘Over 30 million users flock to Grooveshark…’

Wow.  30 million users that ‘flock to Grooveshark,’ and, again, I quote from their own site:

‘…to listen to their favorite music, create playlists, discover new tunes, and share it all with friends via Facebook, Twitter, social news sites, and more.’

Well, when you have 30 million people coming to your website, you have a lot of web traffic.  This means you can start making money by charging entities to advertise on your site.  After all, you reach tens of millions of consumers.

Just think of all the money Grooveshark makes by selling ads.

There is just one really big, big problem: they don’t get licenses and don’t pay the artists, the labels and/or the songwriters for the use of the music that’s making them tons of money. I can assure you, 99% of the hundreds of thousands of TuneCore Artists whose music is in Grooveshark have not been paid a single penny.

Said more simply: ARTISTS SHOULD BE PAID FOR THE USE OF THEIR MUSIC!

In order for Grooveshark to pull off their ‘aren’t-we-so-clever-f**k-the-artist’ scheme, they use copyright law in a way it was not intended to be used.

First, they built technology that turns music fans into unwitting conspirators to make Grooveshark money.  As the recent UK Wired article on Grooveshark explains it:

‘Grooveshark’s 35 million members are able to upload their own tracks to the streaming service’s music library. This legally questionable practice means that Grooveshark often has to deal with take-down orders (under the Digital Millenium Copyright Act) to remove infringing contents within a specified time period, however the company is protected from being sued provided it complies with the order. This is the same defence that YouTube uses for video uploads.’

In other words, Grooveshark is not putting the music into its own system, ‘users’ are.  Therefore, Grooveshark gets to just shrug its shoulders and say: ‘Gosh, it’s not legally Grooveshark’s fault that all this music is illegally available for anyone to listen to for free on our site.’

Next, the way US copyright law works, the copyright holder (meaning the artist, songwriter or label) has to go to Grooveshark and search for their recording or song. If found, the copyright holder must notify Grooveshark that the song and/or recording is in the Grooveshark service without authorization. Only after that notification occurs does Grooveshark have to remove the song or recording.  And once it takes it down, it does not mean that it will not re-appear tomorrow as some other poor, unsuspecting user falls into Groovesharks scheme and re-uploads the very same recording…

Some scumbag saw this legal loophole and must have thought something like:

My meal ticket is in.  Here is a way to make a lot of money by using music without having to pay artists, labels or songwriters.  First, I’ll get music fans to upload the music so we can’t be sued.  Next, I’ll do nothing until the copyright holder contacts me.  At the same time I’ll sell ad space from all the web traffic I’m getting (whoo-hoo world, free music!!).  Then I’ll keep all the money and call myself something cool like ‘Grooveshark.’  If music gets taken down, not to worry.  If the music is popular, some other music fan will most likely put it up again not realizing he or she is hurting the very artist he or she loves.  Oh, and f**k the artist, we aren’t going to pay them anything for the use of their music.

I actually met with people at Grooveshark a few times. You think politicians don’t provide straight answers? Wait until you talk to these guys.  I’ve never experienced anyone trying to so hard to convince me that 2+2 does not equal 4. They wanted TuneCore to enter into a deal with them, but the whole thing made me sick.

And I appear not to be the only one reaching this conclusion–check out this CNET article titled: ‘Grooveshark email: How we built a music service without, um, paying for music’ – Grooveshark wanted to use unlicensed music to build a huge online following and then deal with the labels, according to company e-mails entered into court records.

And just when you think it can’t get any more slimy, check out these alleged emails written and sent by Grooveshark Chairman Sina Simantob – copy and pasted from the CNET article (you can read the entire article in CNET here):

‘The only thing that I want to add is this: we are achieving all this growth without paying a dime to any of the labels,’ wrote Sina Simantob, Grooveshark’s chairman, in an e-mail on Dec. 1, 2009. The note was addressed to ‘Josh’—presumably Josh Greenberg, one of the company’s co-founders and CTO. ‘My favorite story related to our case is the story of a kid who appears in front of the judge for sentencing for the crime of having murdered both his parents saying judge have mercy on me cuz I am an orphan.’

‘In our case,’ Simantob continued, ‘we use the label’s songs till we get a 100 (million) uniques, by which time we can tell the labels who is listening to their music, where, and then turn around and charge them for the very data we got from them, ensuring that what we pay them in total for streaming is less than what they pay us for data mining. Let’s keep this quite [sic] for as long as we can.’

Oh and it gets better.  Check out this email Sina allegedly sent to a venture capitalist when he was trying to raise millions of dollars for his nifty little company.

Again, from the CNET article:

‘In an e-mail to a venture capitalist in April 2010, Simantob appears to acknowledge that this is the strategy employed by Grooveshark.’

‘We bet the company on the fact that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission,’ Simantob wrote in an e-mail to Andrew Lipsher, a partner at Greycroft, a venture capital firm.’

And Grooveshark LOVES to rub artists’ faces in what they are doing — using their music and paying them nothing.  Watch the little slickly produced video they have on their website, complete with screaming fans and an inside look at the Grooveshark offices, where you can see all their computers, ping-pong tables and neat-o ‘hipster’ décor bought from profits derived from using artists’ music without paying them a cent. They even made mouse pads and t-shirts with their logo all over them and set the entire video to a fun little soundtrack that hops and skips along trying to show us all how they cool they are as they smile and steal.

Think about that next time you are trying to scrape together enough money to get gas for the tour van. Make a new logo for them: Grooveshark giving the middle finger to musicians.

My opinion: Grooveshark is a fish rotting from the head down.  The people running it are immoral and could care less about who and/or what they hurt as long as they make money. They make the major labels look like saints.  

From my perspective, there is no possible way anyone could seriously work at that place and state they truly care about musicians and songwriters (unless they are so delusional or drank so much of their own Kool-Aid they lost touch with reality).

So what can you do if your recordings or songs are on Grooveshark without your authorization?  

Number one, tell your fans NOT TO USE THEM. Start a Twitter ‘Boycott Grooveshark’ campaign. Even better, learn who is advertising with Grooveshark and then tweet, email and/or call those companies and tell them to stop giving Grooveshark money.

Things are tough enough as it is, do artist really need this too?

What’s even more upsetting is Grooveshark, the anti-artist entity that pays NOTHING to artists and apparently does not believe they should be paid for the use of their music, gets a free ride from the press while Spotify, the entity that provides the same service as Grooveshark but actually pays artists, gets lambasted in the press for not paying enough.

Don’t we all think that making money off an artist’s music while paying the artist NOTHING for the use of it is worse than a company that got licenses and pays something?

I’m all for technology reinventing things and disrupting things, but do you really need to kick the artist in the face to do it?”

26 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Darren

    Sometimes it seems like Grooveshark is the best thing to ever happen to you, Paul. Start back up with the real journalism and take a break from your normal “sensationalism for sentationalism’s sake” approach.

    • Avatar
      Visitor2

      Normally I would agree with your statement but I dont think this post is that. I think theres a lot of value in this kind of post, its important to show that even the smallest of companies feel this way about Grooveshark. Too often Indies leave majors on their own to fight these battles which would be fine but without indies there isnt the appearance of credibility. Without indies it looks like the majors are just looking for a pay check.

      I think its important for the entire industry to speak up against services like this.

  2. Avatar
    V3

    First thing Jeff Price said that is actually worth listening to.

  3. Avatar
    balbers

    I didn’t read the whole article, only skimmed it. But a couple things jumped out to me-

    He says multiple times that Grooveshark is exploiting a legal loophole. Well, if it’s a legal loophole, shouldn’t his beef be more with the law than with Grooveshark? Grooveshark’s operators might be totally unscrupulous, but if it’s ultimately legal, and even JPrice is admitting it’s legal, his fury sounds a bit misdirected.

    Also- the phrase should be ‘couldn’t care less’, not ‘could care less’. If you think about it for even a fraction of a second, you’d know that ‘could care less’ is actually the exact opposite of the message you’re trying to communicate. Work that out, JP.

    • Avatar
      Tone

      I agree, the law must be challenged but we shouldn’t ignore the perpentrators…

      What if there was a loophole that allowed murderers to murder and get away scott-free? It’s still wrong to murder, even if there’s a loophole in the law. The loophole doesn’t make the act any less wrong.

    • Avatar
      Insight

      The legal loophole he’s referencing here is (I believe) one that’s meant to protect ISP’s from being sued for copyright infringement in the DMCA. Because ISP’s provide the internet access which allows users like you and me to hop onto Bit Torrent and illegally download albums they could have become liable for the damages in record sales. Lobbyists managed to get the loophole passed so that ISP’s wouldn’t be shut down outright for simply giving people access to the internet. The important part is that the ISP’s aren’t directly responsible for filesharing. They have no control over how people use their internet connections, they only charge for access to the net. What people choose to download and how to download it is their own responsibility. By the same logic, you would have to shut down google for every instance that someone searched “‘album name’ bit torrent” on their servers.
      The issue that Price is making is that Grooveshark’s business model is directly build upon the premise of this loophole. It allows them to provide a service for little to nothing while escaping the law. To make it a simpler anallogy, Grooveshark is Mega Upload, and Google is a service like Comcast or AT&T. Grooveshark and Mega Upload work off the premise of directly offering copyrighted material for free (copyright infringement) wheras AT&T and Google only want to give you access to information. What information your looking for is your own problem.

      So the issue isn’t with the law (even though it is) because the law and the loophole exist for a purpose. What Price is trying to do is get people to realize how immoral it is that Grooveshark is exploiting artists for their contect and force people to take a stand.

  4. Avatar
    Steven Corn (BFM Digital)

    My artists get paid by Grooveshark. That’s because we did a deal with them. It’s not a lot of money for them. But you can say the same for lots of streaming services including Pandora, Spotify, etc. Actually, I get more money from Grooveshark than from other more acceptable services such as Last.fm or We7.

    I find Jeff’s comments to be hypocritical. He condemns Grooveshark instead of doing a deal to monetize it. And on the other hand, he holds a no-compromise position with AmazonUK which is causing his artists to actually lose sales. And that’s just because they won’t support his publishing admin claims.

    So, let’s add it up. Tunecore artists, in the vast majority, don’t earn more than their yearly renewal fees. Most won’t recoup their publishing admin fee. So who is taking advantage of artists?

  5. Avatar
    Clark Sorley

    The DIY services like Tunecore do a fair enough job but they shouldn’t be too holier than thou. The majority of their customers sell next to no product and publish their music for reasons other than commercial. Nothing wrong with that of course. Artists presenting work for its own sake is reason enough. But it’s hardly a money-making activity other than for the service providers themselves who take advantage of a high number of wannabes.

    Being “published” used to be for the select minority only. Now anyone can such that it amounts to not a lot in itself. Once people realise that their work being “out there” is little more than a file sitting on a server then the novelty will wear off. In time most will probably drift away leaving a hard core of committed music-makers. Then the DIY companies too might find there’s not much business to be done.

    It seems the underlying reality is that the culture is moving to a place where music recordings, like photographs, are generally considered to have no economic value and are able to move around freely with little accruing to creators. We’re nearly there already. It shouldn’t be forgotten that historically most recordings had no economic value anyway.

    The Tunecores of the world won’t be oblivious to all this and as such it might be a bit disingenuous should they get overly moralistic. Helping artists to make money is stretching it somewhat not because the facility isn’t adequately provided but because, other than in the aggregated sense, it just doesn’t happen. Nor will it the way things are going which is toward a freer kind of access. Ironically it may well be the flouting outlaws like Grooveshark who are closer to defining the future. Nothing new there.

    • Avatar
      bald headed john

      This is priceless

      “It shouldn’t be forgotten that historically most recordings had no economic value anyway”

      I would say that the only economic value a sound recording has is that which is perceived by the consumer. The perception which was created by marketing

      • Avatar
        R.P.

        Consumerism. The most valid point I have read all day. #Logic.

  6. Avatar
    Grooveshark supporter. The rig

    This made me crack up. The only person who is “immoral ” is the jealous failure CEO who can’t establish his own company so he attempts to sabotage another. The only problem is Grooveshark dominates with loyal users who clearly enjoy an excellent product; while his company could never produce success of that nature. If you hate Grooveshark so much then why don’t you boycott YouTube as well? Since you clearly state the both ” use are run under the same scheme”. It’s okay, Tunecore, it’s clear your company will run into the ground soon enough due to your bitter and bigoted mind. Then you won’t have to stew in your disoriented paradigm soup while the brilliant people at Grooveshark keep working diligently and focusing on their groundbreaking, spectacular product.

    • Avatar
      Yes...

      Groundbreaking, in the sense that they’re digging their own grave.

      Spectacular, for the legal fireworks that will be the cause of death.

  7. Avatar
    notbitter

    I think artists should be compensated for their work being used. The way to make this happen is to deal with Grooveshark, boycotting won’t work when they have 30M users, so give that idea up.

    I am one of the thousands of label and distribution people who lost their careers because our employers didn’t deal with napster, limewire, Kazaa and the others. I have little sympathy for anyone who genuinely thinks a boycott will affect the outcome of the core issue.

    I agree with the poster who stated “if you have a problem with Grooveshark get the legal loophole closed”. I don’t blame any P2P service for what happened in my life or that of my friends. The company I worked for had a chance to buy what was the premiere digital distribution hub of 2002, 65 million active users (this is pre-itunes, not so long ago). That company decided it was better to let the site GO DARK FOR 6 MONTHS, rendering it useless for anyone; artists, fans and people like me who worked there.

    In the face of such blatant stupidity I am not surprised at anything that happens in the music world.

    The thing that everyone needs to consider is that a 20 year old has grown up with music being free. Hard to imagine for those of us well over 20, but face it, that’s what they grew up knowing. Sociologists and anthropologists will tell you that it’s difficult to change ingrained habits. Grooveshark was started out of a dorm at a Florida University, it’s run by recent graduates of said school. Instead of hating on them, change the law, and work on strategies that encourage individuals and companies to pay the fees associated with music usage.

  8. Avatar
    Think about it

    If the problem is that they are exploiting the law, then lobby to change the law! It’s not as if the music industry is a little guy with no legal recourse…Grooveshark is a business trying to make money, acting according to its own rational best interests. Artists are the same (well according to Mr. Price anyway). When their interests collide, that is why laws exist in the first place! Seems like he’s barking up the wrong tree. IP Law needs some reform, this would be a good place to start.

  9. Avatar
    @silvermedallion

    This is an important article bout how grooveshark is stealing from and manipulating artists.

  10. Avatar
    @ADSR

    A Grooveshark tényleg vállalhatatlan hozzáállást mutat. A kezdeti szimpátiából már korábban áttettem őket a kétes…

  11. Avatar
    Michael A-Lyric

    I just noticed that there are 20 tracks I co-wrote on Grooveshark, none of which are licensed. “Do a deal,” I hear you say. Sure, I love doing deals. But what happened to the idea of people doing a deal BEFORE they use other people’s copyrights. Is that too much to ask?

    M

  12. Avatar
    guest

    Wait, Grooveshark gets a free ride from the press? Now that’s news to me. Unless he doesn’t consider paul to be part of the press.

  13. Avatar
    Johnny Disco

    As an artist and music consumer I can’t help feeling that all of these criticisms are equally applicable to the big record labels. How often have we heard of scams and rip-offs being perpetratated on artists and now Grooveshark is doing it better than the record companies themselves, whilst following the letter of the law.

    The times must be a-changin’

  14. Avatar
    @Hendovich

    This is what happens if UGC regulation relies on “notice and take-down.” Let’s hope Russia does better.

  15. Avatar
    Dan B

    Paul you run a great site why sully it with this crapshit article. Jeff is a self promoter.

    I would liken it to CNN reporting that a vagrant bum cursing obama.

  16. Avatar
    [email protected]

    It seems in this post, that Grooveshark will be facing a deluge of lawsuits by the record labels, digital distributors and artists who have their work on Grooveshark if what the author says is true. They may end up closing because the litigation costs are too high and too much for any company to deal with. Plaintiffs should see if these allegations are true and decide the best move forward. Many artists are working to feed their families and it’s a shame if they aren’t getting paid at least for it even if it isn’t much.

    http://www.legalfunding.com

  17. Avatar
    Frankie

    I’m currently conducting a survey for my dissertation regarding the adoption processes of those who consume music via streaming services… If you care to take the time and fill it out, it would be greatly appreciated. https://aytm.com/r6892ce Thank you!

  18. Avatar
    Jason Miles

    I met the folks at Grooveshark when they were working out of their college dorm rooms in Gainsville Florida. They put me on their advisory board.I accepted because they simply said “Our concept is the artist will get paid for their work and we want to make it so you get paid for file sharing.The concept has certainly now changed. Theses were innocent excitable kids who really believed in what they were doing.I loved Sam’s enthusiasm and his true Edler in what he was doing would be great for artists and music.

    I saw the deterioration of morals and truthfulness when the money people slowly started to take over the company and all bets were off as far as their purpose and mission went.The mission now was to make as much money possible for everybody involved but the artists.

    I spoke and met with Sam many times in the beginning but I could see the change coming right infront of me.The phone calls and emails stopped and all I kept hering from people who I turned JM onto was these guys are class A greedy assholes who have no interest in anything but how rich they are going to get.

    I went over alot of emails that I got from them, in the beginning stating how my expertise and reputation as a producer is helping them and how they are so thankful for my friendship.

    You can throw that out the freakin window as I have never heard from Sam again and emails and calls are left unanswered and unreturned. The wisdom I spread is is this-

    The same people who you meet on the way up are the same ones you meet on the way down.Everybody goes through downs and that is the time you find out who is on your side.I’m fortunate that after 38 years I’m still here and working. We’ll see what the future holds for the people at Grooveshark-I can’t believe their future is too bright

    Peace,Jason Miles