About a month ago, Turntable.fm launched to a lot of buzz within the Silicon Valley community and managed to rack up 140,000 members within a month of launch. The music listening site lets users create social music listening chatrooms with strangers and friends. People can either choose to be a DJ, streaming their hand-selected music for the room to listen to, or they can be a listener and just hang out and enjoy the music the DJs choose.
Turntable.fm is the first group listening service to get major attention from the media. Similar services include Listening Room and Outloud.fm. Each service is web-based and simply creates a chatroom where people can listen to music together. On Turntable.fm, users can also add tracks from Turntable’s library of licensed music, which isn’t possible on the other sites. Regardless of the small differences, the existence of these sites demonstrates that the spread of social features and other hooks across the Web have taken a relatively solitary experience, listening to one’s personal music collection, and made it social by recreating the club/concert atmosphere online.
Already, Turntable has gotten the attention of pros within the music industry such as old school rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot and producer Diplo. Sir Mix-A-Lot ran a DJ set on Turntable to promote his new Facebook game MixNMatch. Meanwhile, Diplo managed to sneak onto the service and play a set for unsuspecting Turntable users as well. While this early celebrity participation may seem of little consequence at first glance, it is easy to see how the opportunities for marketers to use VIP talent within these communities could be a good way to build brand recognition. Brands involved in major music festival sponsorships may also want to use group listening services to create live group chat and musical experiences between celebrities and participants, creating a custom room for musicians to promote their music or serve as DJs.
In 2011 we’ve gone from group texting to group photo sharing to group music listening. Turntable.fm and its Web-based competitors are just a taste of what’s to come as media consumption itself becomes more social with more fine-tuned curation of content from friends and trusted experts on these services. Group music listening will start moving into mobile as well. Wahwah.fm promises to recreate the shared listening experience for mobile phones, while MyStream makes it possible for people on the same WiFi or Bluetooth connections to listen to the same playlists. All of these services combine to create an exciting new landscape for music listeners. Group listening services solve the problems of loneliness, discovery, and curation for music lovers and create a social environment that brands and celebrities can use to create more personal musical experiences for participants.
But is it all too good to be true? Everyone in the music industry has an opinion on the legality of Turntable.fm, Google Music, and Amazon Cloud Player, but it’s too early to tell if these services will continue as they are or bend to the whims of the record industry. In the meantime, I’ll keep taking advantage of all these fun new social music services and leave the nitty gritty for the lawyers to figure out.