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July 14, 2011

Social Music Done Right: Turntable.FM

July 14, 2011

turntable.fmBack when I first started college, I found a group of college kids from around the world, connecting on a web forum about music. I quickly got hooked, as my budding interest in recording and listening to music on vinyl wasn't very accepted by my peers in the dorm rooms of Ball State. This online community was the perfect place for me to grow musically.

I remember talking late one night in one of the chat rooms we had set up through IRC (remember those days?). I knew that this community could benefit from having an internet radio station where we could feature different users each week, with the ability to chat and exchange ideas while listening in on the music.

I figured out how to broadcast from my computer to others, but it was difficult to bring in users to play and participate. Needless to say that idea failed quickly due to the time requirements it would take for me to organize and run it. Plus it cost money, money a poor college student didn't have.

Now in 2011 we have what I wanted in 2005, and it's called turntable.fm. Turntable is simply brilliant.

For those unfamiliar, you sign up through Facebook or Twitter, and enter rooms and listen to music, chat and if you are lucky enough, you can snag a DJ table and start spinning music for that group of people in that room. Turntable has many features that will suck your soul out and soon you will find yourself spending hours picking that next perfect song for all your friends.

It has become quite the hit here at SmallBox. All of us are avid music and technology lovers and turntable blends the two in harmony. But what really impresses us is the social aspect of it. Listening to music is one thing, but being able to share it with others is so engaging and helps expand and refine your tastes in music. I have already found 5 bands on turntable that I have never heard of previously, and now have bought their albums because of it.

There is a gaming element as well. When playing a song listeners can vote whether they thing the song is awesome or lame. If awesome, your DJ avatar gets points that can be used to upgrade your appearance. If voted lame by a majority of people in the room, your song will be skipped. The thrill of getting a song voted awesome by everyone in a turntable room is addictive and exhilarating.

There are some limitations right now unfortunately. First, only people from the US can access the site. Rooms only allow up to 5 DJs and as a DJ you can only play one track at a time.

As with many music sites on the web, the future of Turntable.fm is uncertain. Currently they are dealing with licensing problems and many songs are getting pulled from the site. Users can still upload their own songs, but it is often buggy and takes lots of time. Apparently there's interest among many investors in supporting the company, and only time will tell if turntable will stay alive in this strange digital rights battle online.

In my opinion if done correctly, turntable could be an integral part of my social interactions with people on the web. It's addictive, fun, and combines my a few of my favorite things – technology, music, and friends.

I would continue, but I am DJing right now and I need to find the next song to play.

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