All in: Turntable.fm

Have you heard of turntable.fm yet?  It’s a really cool concept — you make a little avatar and hang out in a digital room listening to real music with your real friends (who also have cool little avatars.)  You can take your turn spinning some tunes (deciding what song comes on next) or just hang out and listen.

If you’re just joining us here in the music industry, you might have noted that things aren’t what they once were.

In the last decade or so, various fads have been billed as the savior of the music industry.  (Remember when the smart money was in selling songs as ring tones?)  All have found their appropriate place in the larger game-plan of a working-class band (every dollar counts these days) but if you were looking for a magic spell that made the industry hyper-profitable again, you’re out of luck.  Every phenom came back down to earth eventually.

Perhaps one day services like Rdio and Spotify that stream unlimited music for a monthly fee could represent the titanic shift in music consumption that the industry has been waiting for (well, that’s one humble blogger’s thought anyway.)  But even there, monetization models based around music streaming services have a long way to go before the industry can start popping champagne bottles.

Enter turntable.fm.

What’s made turntable revolutionary is that it seems to have popularized the concept of group listening, which many industry so-and-so’s (as well as many non-industry investors, as you’ll see in a moment) think might just be the next big thing.  It makes perfect sense — online behavior has evolved to be social (aka based around content sharing.)  Maybe music has finally become social in a way that doesn’t involve sharing illegally ripped albums.

Better still, turntable didn’t just have a great idea — they had a great idea and then executed it in the best way possible; they figured out how to make a music sharing experience that also looks really cool.  The whole package — the room, the dj’s, the avatars, the chat integration — was what sealed the deal and brought group listening into the social age.

Get where this is going yet?  The industry (as well as outsiders) all have a really good feeling about this one (yes, again) and they’re getting very, very excited.

As I mentioned previously, it’s not just the industry that’s excited.  In its most recent round of fundraising, turntable.fm has allegedly raised $7.5mil from a venture capital firm.  Kanye West and Lady Gaga personally contributed another $7.5mil themselves.

And if that wasn’t enough proof that turntable has truly arrived, how about the highest form of flattery: a totally shameless knockoff that does the exact same thing.

I’m absolutely not going to rip on turntable — it’s awesome.  I’m on there DJ’ing myself, and having an awesome time doing it.  I love sharing my music listening experience, and I hope this is the beginning of something special.

My only point to everyone is this: slow down.

Turntable.fm is undeniably awesome, but it’s only going to remain awesome so long as everyone agrees it’s awesome.  If nobody uses it, the appeal is gone.

Personally, if I’m a potential investor, having seen music industry fads come and go, my money would be going nowhere near music sharing websites like turntable until I’m convinced that this isn’t a fad, but rather a cultural movement towards consumers sharing their music-listening experiences online.

When you word it that way, you see how big a risk you’re taking in assuming this is the next big thing that’s going to last forever.

Right now it’s huge, but so was selling songs as ring tones.  I would love nothing more than for shared listening to be the way of the future, but for now, it’s still just a flash in the pan until it proves otherwise.

More specifically, it’s a “flash in the pan” that I’ll be rooting for.  As will, I’m sure, Kanye and Lady Gaga.  Best of luck to all involved, I really hope they pull it off.

Post by Alex Horowitz

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