I was recently introduced to Turntable.fm a few weeks ago. Immediately, I was hooked. Turntable is probably the first, well executed social music web app. Yes, I’ve used Pandora, Last.fm, Like.fm, Rdio, Ex.fm, 8tracks, Hype Machine, Blip.fm, Ping (lol), Soundcloud, SoundTracking, etc. etc. etc. and their social experiences suck.
Instead of trying to explain what Turntable is, stop reading now and give it a try. DJ’ing with a group of friends is incredibly addicting and, dare I say, kinda magical (especially when you experience the positive reenforcement of dancing alien-cats). Go check it out.
Pretty awesome, huh? The cool factor is obvious but less obvious are its huge opportunities and strengths.
Powerful Recommendation System and Ad Network
Turntable knows the music you play as well as the songs you hate (“lame”) and like (“awesome”). These choices are explicit and integrated into the user experience to create a rich understanding of ones music tastes. This differs from Last.fm’s scrobbling technology that collects preferences passively, often from user’s giant, shuffled music collection. Pandora provides a lean-back experience that isn’t designed for engagement or input of ones specific likes. You may like an artist’s song but not necessarily their entire catalog, let alone similar artists.
Knowing the songs users like and dislike gives Turntable the ability to provide high quality recommendations (paid and unpaid). Combined with their social graph, these recommendations become algorithmically and socially curated (both crowdsourced and through friends’ recommendations). Of course, artist schwag, location-aware concert/event promotions, and brand integration also fit nicely.
Music is all about self-expression. Turntable’s avatars emphasize this, creating a great platform for customization (and virtual goods). Undoubtably they will add more skins, dances, and other virtual items to customize your avatar. This will expand beyond simple visual changes to include game-like “power ups” or special abilities such as unique stage backdrops, double XP sessions, or tomatoes to throw at the DJ.
It’s no secret that Turntable is looking to go mobile. Replicating the web experience is an obvious choice but I’m sure they will do so much more by taking advantage of location.
Remember jukeboxes? People used to publicly “DJ” by throwing in quarters into a giant metal box. What if Turntable brought its experience into the real world, allowing users to DJ, “lame”, and “awesome” songs played at the club or in a bar?
Artists and Celebrities Pull in the Mainstream
Ok, this is fake but it will happen and when it does, Turntable will go mainstream. For the first few years of its existence, Twitter’s top followed users were tech influencers like Leo Laporte but as soon as celebrities like Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, and Ashton Kutcher joined, its growth hockeysticked. Like Twitter, Turntable is also designed for self-promotion and social engagement (ie, designed for celebrities and artists). No doubt they will add profile pages and one-way following to accommodate this and help artists create a personal relationship with their audience.
New “Game Modes”
Karaoke, live DJ’ing (directly plug in your turntables and stream), guess the song, and other modes will extend the experience. These may even be locked for new users until they reach a certain point threshold, encouraging positive contribution and engagement.
Their biggest challenge will be managing the community. I’ve already seen some trolling and obnoxious behavior in larger rooms; however, moderation and a persistant point system tied to user’s Facebook account will help.
Huge props to Seth Goldstein and Billy Chasen for creating an awesome product. Despite having launched their beta just 3 weeks ago, rumor has it they’ve been flooded with eager investors, including Chris Sacca and I wouldn’t doubt if Gary Vaynerchuk gets involved.
I’m excited to see where this goes. Turntable isn’t just the next big thing in music. It’s a visionary product that will become the next massively successful verticalized social network, à la Instagram.
Update: It looks like TechCrunch agrees.