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If you’re not from the US, this sounds familiar: a cool new music or video service launches but when you want to test it out, you find out it’s not available in your country. The music recommendation site Pandora is one of many victims of a world that doesn’t have unified copyright regulations. Fortunately, there is a valid alternative out there that features worldwide availability: Grooveshark. Did I mention that it’s free?

How it works
On Grooveshark’s homepage, you can immediately start using their MP3 search engine. It works great for both old and new songs. Even songs that are less known are available. When you find something you like, you can add it to your playlist by clicking the plus sign. In most cases, album art is fetched automatically. Grooveshark allows you to add, skip, repeat, shuffle, reorder and remove songs in your playlist as you see fit.

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Building radio stations with Grooveshark’s recommendation engine
Much like its rival Pandora, Grooveshark lets you create radio stations by having it select songs that sound similar to the ones you picked yourself. Making a new radio station is simple: add a few songs to the playlist and hit the Radio button. Grooveshark will then start adding new songs to your playlist while you listen. There is no limit on how many songs you can skip per hour.

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The next obvious question is of course: how does the recommendation engine perform? In a first test I added one oldie, three well-known songs from the alternative music scene and one less known song. They all have one thing in common: they’ll get your blood pumping. When I hit the Radio button, Grooveshark seemed to understand I was looking for songs within the rock genre. While most of the songs fit together, new tracks didn’t all have the same level of loudness as the songs I picked earlier. It is worth noting however that you can throw out bad apples by giving them a thumbs down.

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As a second test, I picked a couple of top 40 country songs from a few years ago to see if it would recognize the genre and suggest songs that went well together. The algorithm is capable of competing with internet radio and Apple’s Genius, so it gets a thumbs up from me. There’s a small drawback though: Grooveshark doesn’t tell you why it selected a song, while Pandora does give you detailed information about the similarity of songs.

Conclusion
Overall, I’d say non-US residents shouldn’t mourn over Pandora. Grooveshark may not provide as much detail about its recommendations as Pandora, but the fact that you can listen to any song you like and have Grooveshark select additional songs for you makes it a great service and a serious competitor to Pandora.

Grooveshark Homepage