One of Turntable.fm's many chat rooms.
One of Turntable.fm's many chat rooms. htp://turntablefm.com
Of all the music-based social media on the web, Turntable.fm is built around arguably the most useful new idea. It's also the biggest time-suck I've come across in a long time.
At its core, Turntable.fm is one of a few similar services — Listening Room is another — that have popped up in the past six months to allow people to share music with each other in real time. The service, which is free, is essentially a series of chat rooms that feature DJs. As a user, you have a couple of options: You can create a room and invite friends in to listen or play songs, but even better, you can join an existing room full of strangers with similar musical interests.
The rooms have names like "Indie While You Work," "90s!!!!!! All the Time" and "Japanese DJ." You get the idea. When you sign in, you get a creepy/funny little avatar that bobs and sways to the music if you approve of what you hear, and there's a chat feature so you can make friends with people in the room. I randomly went into the Indie Denver xmu room and met some good music fans and heard a bunch of great songs. You can ignore that silly avatar — even ignore everyone in the room and just listen — or you and your avatar can be one of the DJs, taking turns spinning tunes. There's a gaming aspect to this part of the service: If people like what you play, you get points, and if they don't, you lose a turn.
If you're one of the five DJs spinning in a room, you can choose music to play provided by Medianet, a digital content provider, or upload your own music — which is where things get sticky. Turntable.fm doesn't have deals with labels, so you can bet the music industry will challenge the notion that what it's doing is legal. There have been suggestions that Turntable.fm will try to use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to protect itself from having to make deals, which would mean adhering to specific rules about how many times songs can be played and how many people can listen at a time. But, as is often the case, it could come down to money and lawyers.
For now, Turntable.fm is in beta, and to use the service you have to be connected to a current user via Facebook or Twitter. If anyone has tips to share for those who want access, please post them in the comments section.
And, while you're there, tell us what you think. Are you a Turntable.fm user? Is there a similar service that you prefer? What is it about this way of listening to music that's so appealing?