Turntable.FM: Addictive To Use, Promising For Artists & Disruptive

TurntableOne of the most addictive startups to emerge in the past few weeks has not focused on location, Twitter, Facebook or gaming. Well, okay, maybe a bit about the last part, but the basis for this startup is centered around music. It’s called Turntable.fm and has been flooded by requests for people interested in joining the service during their beta trials. Basically, what Turntable.fm (@turntablefm) does is creates a do-it-yourself club environment where you can create rooms that you can moderate and set up to have up to five spots for people to step up and DJ and play their own songs. The premise is simple: find a room you want to play/listen to music in, then when you’re good and ready, step up to one of the available DJ spots and when it’s your turn, you’ll be able to play songs in your playlist.

Turntable.FM spins you right round, baby. Right round.

Once you get into using Turntable.FM, you’re going to find the it is quite addictive in nature. What benefit you get from using it is discovering new songs that you might not have ordinarily have found by listening to the radio, Pandora, iTunes, Spotify or any other Internet streaming radio service. It offers a bit more of a human connection to music discovery, just like one might expect when being in a club. And there’s a bit of social reward as well as users will get reinforcement of their music choices as the people in the room will be able to vote on their satisfaction of music played in the DJ room – there is a gauge in each room that everyone can see that let’s people rate songs as either awesome or lame. The more “lame” a song gets, the greater the chance of it being skipped (thereby reducing the torture exuded on listeners). And with the more points a DJ receives, the better their chance of receiving new DJ avatars, including receiving Daft Punk, Deadmau5 and other special ones.

But while you might think that with all the hoopla surrounding Turntable.FM is positive, think twice. It is by far a perfect service and they are aware of this. For a company that has only three employees, it is still undergoing some tremendous growth and there will surely be obstacles that will cause some users to ponder what’s going on.

There’s never a perfect service around when you need it

For a service dedicated to streaming music online, one of the big things to worry about is copyright protections for all the music being played. Turntable.FM has put into place some steps that hopefully will make them less susceptible to a lawsuit by musicians, artists, brands and the recording industry. So just what provisions are there that users should be worried about?

  • DJs will not be able to play music to an empty room
  • DJs are not able to play music to a room with one person if they themselves are the only DJs
  • No international users are allowed to use the service at this time (similar block by Pandora due to licensing issues)

However, besides these preventative measures, there’s still a lot of room for Turntable.FM to grow before it gets to wear it needs to go. There is a huge scaling problem where there are times when the search feature no longer works properly or there are unexpected downtimes. Other problems on the site include the inability to have multiple playlists so that you can segment your music for different rooms. As it stands right now, your entire playlist is appropriate for all music rooms (e.g. dubstep, easy listening, rap/hip hop, R&B, etc.). I suppose these issues, among others, are a good thing to have and obviously signs of scaling issues, which means that there is more than likely a huge growth of users on the service. There are a lot more features that would be cool, but I think SimpleGeo’s founder, Matt Galligan (@mg) wrote the best post about it here.

Long-term promise

DJOne might expect that the only benefit that you might get out of Turntable.FM is one geared towards consumers. It’s a social network for consumers, right? No, not necessarily, In fact, there is a big potential for disruption of the music industry, just like how sites like Pandora have helped kill off the CD and radio. The power here is for artists to test their own songs in a controlled environment and basically add a Q&A section to their preview. Just imagine the following scenario:

An artist is set to release their new album and wanted to preview their newest single to specific people in order to gauge reaction and also open it up to discussion. The artist’s representatives send out invitations to individuals and they are given a specific Turntable.FM room that is private, only accessible by the URL provided by the artist. The room is set for only one DJ to play (this being the single that is being tested) and at a designated time, the artist becomes the DJ and plays their music. Those in attendance can voice their opinion as either “awesome” or “lame” and the focus group’s response is noted.

Obviously, this would require some additional work in partnership with Turntable.FM, which leads me to another potential for the service…leveraging MySpace. Yes, we might think that one of the pioneer social networks doesn’t have a leg to stand on, but having been known as the one place for entertainment and musicians to set up their social profiles on, might make it more interesting. Through some sort of partnership with MySpace, musicians with profiles on there could set up virtual concerts that would be a venue for them to get their songs out there to the masses. As still one of the largest networks out there, MySpace could do what they failed to do with MySpace Karaoke, which they recently shuttered. Now it’s not the same thing as having concerts or performances in real life, but giving music lovers an additional method of voicing their happiness or displeasure about a specific song or artist album can’t be a bad thing, right?

Turntable.FM holds some long-term potential in scaling and brand building and musicians and artists should not shy away from it. Granted, the legal ramifications still need to be sorted out, but the site can be a rival to Pandora and other Internet radio services out there while also leveraging its technology to build a greater music platform for others. And maybe even allow third-parties to develop hacks and apps for the site that will only enhance a user’s experience.

Whatever happens, the beat will keep on going and Turntable.fm will continue to grow. And that’s just awesome to me.