Turntable.fm and Active Music Discovery
by Jonathan Jaeger
If you haven’t been living under a music discovery rock for the last month, you’ve probably tried (or at least heard of) the new social music discovery site Turntable.fm. The site allows users to become virtual DJs, where people take turns picking songs from their queue to play to listeners in rooms for specific genres. Everybody has an avatar and the ability to chat with others, fan different “DJs”, and make playlists. A fun idea, though it’s important for casual listeners to distinguish between a DJ who plays their favorite songs all in a row and a DJ who carefully crafts and manipulates songs in new and unique ways. But I digress.
In the never-ending quest for more music, I’m always trying the latest music apps so I can stumble upon a new artist or song that I might come to love. My personal preference for music discovery in the last couple years has been to browse artist profiles on various music social networks, whether that’s on my own site HypedSound or on the various other platforms (SoundCloud, ReverbNation, MySpace, YouTube, etc.). Streaming music websites that have restrictions in terms of song selection, too much advertising, and other limitations never interested me much. I tried out Pandora a couple times but I couldn’t find the consistency in song quality for what I was looking for.
The passive music discovery channel that is Pandora and other streaming sites, that let you press the play button and stop worrying about what song to put on next, never met the quality I was looking for in a more personalized experience. Turntable.fm bridges that gap by letting you discover music alongside like-minded people. For funk, jazz, electronic, and dubstep I found that the songs being played were consistently up-to-par with a song that I wouldn’t press the skip button for on Pandora. If appropriate, it can also skew to the underground or more up-and-coming artists.
What is evident to me now is that the future of music, or at least for the more diehard music fans, is not a passive music discovery channel but a constantly evolving one that allows for a number of different options to discover music within a social environment. While I prefer music websites where artists are the ones broadcasting their music profiles themselves, rather than an algorithm choosing a song from a catalogue or a virtual DJ putting up their favorite tracks, I see the merit in every different type of model.
Turntable.fm offers the intimacy of a social environment with few options for direct-to-artist interaction. Pandora offers simplicity with little of the social factor. HypedSound and similar sites offer more complexity and the ability to reach artists directly, but they require more from the users in terms of interaction and searching. Every platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, but so far, I’ve benefited off of many different models of music discovery.