Assorted thoughts about Turntable.fm
Over the past few days, I and a few other folks you may know from this community have been over at Turntable.fm, checking things out, killing time – or losing track of it.
Before I go any further, let’s just call a spade a spade. Turntable.fm will destroy your productivity and turn you into a drooling lump of music sharing mush, with no hope of ever returning to Pandora or Rhapsody or whateverthehell you do to get your music on without having to think about it too much. It may even cause you to procrastinate on your job, ignore the chores, tell the dog to go walk itself…
Ok, I exaggerate. But not by much.
The amount of work I pulled off on Monday – a day which will heretofore be referred to as life B.T. (before Turntable) – is shocking and impressive compared to what I’ve managed to get done between yesterday and today.
I justify it by telling myself that I listen to music and am involved with online social situations for a living. A social music site? I have an obligation to my readers, to the members of this community, to spend hours there. To visit a large number of rooms and become fans of absolute strangers with screen names like St1ck3r. To earn as many DJ points as possible so that I can get a very unique, awesome avatar that doesn’t look like everyone else’s avatar (in case you don’t recognize me – I’m the green one in the helmet all the way to the right in the DJ booth, in this picture:
See? You can’t even recognize me. My avatar isn’t even wearing glasses. It looks nothing like me. So, I’m going to continue to spend hours in that room playing songs. (If you’re feeling charitable, you can help me earn an avatar that looks somewhat remotely like me by telling Turntable every single song I play is Awesome.)
All kidding aside, though, Turntable.fm is pretty impressive.
It’s in Beta, which means things freeze; you have to refresh and maybe lose your spot in the DJ booth; random users might appear and play songs from outside the DJ booth (which doesn’t seem fair). And yet, all of these annoyances aren’t enough to make it prohibitive. Also, it’s by invitation only, but only in the sense that Gmail was “by invitation only” for the first…what? Three years? If any of your Facebook friends are on Turntable, you’re in. This gives it that good olde fashioned internette guise of being somewhat exclusive. (In reality it’s about as exclusive as the NYC Subway.)
But what is it? It’s like what would happen if you and your friends controlled Pandora. You guys have the best taste in music of anyone you know anyway, right?
You create a playlist, which is a very dynamic thing (you can click and drag songs around your list, or fast-track them to the top of the list). DJs stand in a line behind the booth, and everyone takes their turn. The “radio” pulls from the song at the top of each person’s list, in order from left to right, and then back again. The addicting thing is that you know what’s in your playlist (so you stick around to hear the songs you have queued up), but you don’t know what’s in other people’s lists (so you stick around out of sheer curiosity to see what’s coming next).
The songs can either come from your collection or the Turntable library (which is so far not incredibly extensive…they don’t have the new Gillian record, let’s say, but they have stuff from further back in her catalog). It’s fun to try to match the vibe the other DJs have created. It’s also fun to pull from your personal collection and shake things up with something obscure. Oh hell, just watch the tutorial.
With all this said, though, the most notable thing about Turntable.fm is that it brings the social experience back to music.
Yesterday, I got to hang out in the No Depression room with Kyla and my friend Abbey (who Seattleites know from her Sound on the Sound blog), and we all played songs. Since I know these people (and now live more than 2,000 miles away from them), it felt kind of like we were sitting in someone’s living room swapping tunes. Adam Sheets was also there, as was Easy Ed and Bill Frater (Freight Train Boogie Podcast)…the more people showed up, the more it felt like a real listening party among friends and acquaintances. What’s more, the chat function allowed us to discuss the music. Abbey played some up-and-coming Seattle bands, and shared some info about each. Adam pulled out some old school tracks – obscure versions of better-known songs – and we got to discuss which version we liked better.
If you’re just looking to have music play in the background, you can turn the chat ding off, hide the browser window, and let the other DJs in the room entertain you. If you want to interact with people, there’s that option too.
It would be great to see Turntable accessible from mobile devices, the opportunity to get it through your car stereo, controlled with your phone or iPad, etc. We’ll see if they’re able to stay ahead of that development curve. (Seems I’m not the only one wondering about that.) But, for now, it’s a welcome distraction for a little summertime music sharing.
Come join us in the No Depression room. (There are a several different No Depression rooms so if you click that link and no one is there do a room search for “No Depression” to find which No Depression room has activity.) Twang Nation set up a Honky Tonk Roadhouse that’s good for playing around with (I was in there this morning too), and there’s plenty else to tinker with. Mainly, I’m curious to hear what you think about the experience, and whether you think this is the next best thing in the world, or whether it will go the way of Friendster sooner than later.