Turntable.fm – A New Way to Experience Music
by Scott Creney
Only in America.
That isn’t me being patriotic. For a variety of legal reasons, Turntable.fm is only available to US users. If you’re outside the US, you can probably still log on using something called a ‘proxy server’, but that’s way outside my range of expertise. You’re on your own with that one.
This is too bad, because you aren’t going to find a more enjoyable 21st Century music-listening experience than Turntable.fm. It’s the internet equivalent of being in a house with an infinite number of rooms, each one filled with DJs and listeners chatting about music and playing whatever the hell they want to. It’s collaborative. It’s educational. And it’s fun. And unlike in real life, that one annoying guy isn’t playing records at you all night.
As near as I can tell, Turntable went live sometime around the beginning of June. There’s no contact info. The company is refusing interviews. Everything is shrouded in mystery. Here’s how it works.
You need to be invited, and you need to have a Facebook profile in order to log in. It’s browser based, which means you can’t use it on your phone. Not yet, anyway. (I should mention that, according to the FAQs, Turntable is very much a work in progress at the moment.) Once inside you need to find a room — rooms with your friends appear at the top, the rest are listed in descending order based on the number of people. The most popular rooms have nearly 200 people at any given time.
Most rooms are sorted by genre. Any genre you can imagine, as vague (Humpday Jamz) or as narrow (NC Tunes – stuff from North Carolina) as you desire. Hell, there’s even a room devoted to mashups.
Here’s some sample playlists from a couple of genre rooms.
Twee as Fuck – The Softies, Tullycraft, Tiger Trap, Biff Bang Pow!, All Girl Summer Fun Band, The Lucksmiths, Mirah, Spinanes, Mccarthy, Cub, (early) Primal Scream.
Punk/New Wave 1975-1990 – Modern Lovers, Talk Talk, Liquid Liquid, The Replacements, Echo & the Bunnymen, Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, The Cure, The Undertones, Television Personalities, Squeeze.
At the front of the room are five DJ chairs. The DJs take turns playing songs from left to right. The one at the far left is the moderator and can kick people out of the room for any reason. While the song plays, people in the audience, as well as the other DJs, can vote on whether a song is “lame” or “awesome” (the Beavis & Butt-head school of music critics). If a certain percentage of the room lames it, the song is skipped and moves on to the next DJ, ensuring some level of culpability.
Whoever played The Specials in the Reggae Rarities and Jamaican room got lamed to the point where it skipped to the next person. The person who played Toots & The Maytals barely got through his song. Horace Andy, or The Congos, are just fine though.
You choose songs from Turntable.fm’s nearly limitless database, or you can upload a song off your hard drive (which, for reasons of legality, will not be added to the database — more on that later).
But the best part of Turntable is the chat function. It enables everyone in the room to talk to each other. I have a friend who likes to go into the indie rooms and heckle people. Apparently, a bunch of Neon Indian fans, unclear on the concept of cyberspace, threatened to kick the shit out of him earlier in the week.