Online Music Industry, You Spin Me Right ‘Round…

Update, Jan 2015: It’s all about YouTube, SoundCloud, iTunes, and Pandora for me now. TuneIn for radio.

Update, June 2013: It’s SoundCloud for me now. Longer tracks, huge selection, delightful user interface, straight from the artist. Turntable already fizzled out, even though I thought it would be awesome. ūüôĀ

I guess because it required synchronous engagement between DJs and fans? Meanwhile, SoundCloud has found a nice way to make this engagement asynchronous, with the commenting features that fans can leave – directly in the tracks. Hype Machine is cool too. Great stuff, internet – continuing to make more music available more efficiently.

Originally posted, July 2011:

Radio Music Method
Radio Music Method

About a year ago, I wrote about what I called “The Great Music Discovery Trifecta” because I was loving how the evolution of consumer internet had made it so easy for me to find and portably own oodles of music that I love. ¬†At the time, I was driving to work, capturing songs I liked with Shazam, putting through subsequent interviews in Grooveshark, and then purchasing the ones I wanted to continue listening to through iTunes. ¬†It was glorious (and still is).

But since then, things just keep evolving. ¬†Pandora’s gone public. ¬† has grown into a Wikipedia-like (in terms of depth and quality of information) resource about top rated music. ¬†Spotify has come to the US. ¬† has been birthed (Go Joel!). ¬†And has…well, not only become my daytime music radio source, but it has also captured my data nerd imagination.

You see…I stopped listening to the public radio (except when I have no other choice) for the same reason that most technically savvy folks have done the same…to me, radio music is noisy, inconsistent, and jammed with commercials. ¬†The quality-to-nuisance ratio is just so low that it’s practically unbearable. ¬†So when Pandora & ubiquitous iTunes hit the scene (and then my beloved trifecta), I completely ditched the “DJ curating my music” experience altogether.

…until Turntable.

As an internet innovation enthusiast and someone who likes to listen to music while I work…I’ve been absolutely fascinated with Turntable – not just because it’s a cool “gaze into the future” product (and it is)…but because of its DATA Set and what this means for me…and you. ¬†As Turntable grows (in user #s) & its data becomes more widely available (through an API or the inevitable scraping & aggregation of room data)….it will be fabulous. ¬†(kinda like Twitter circa 2008)

DJ Fans Data
DJs Feeling Crowd Reaction

Here’s my thinking (maybe my hardcore industry friends can inform me here)…seemingly for the first time ever, music pros will be able to get real-time data, in a huge way, about what genres, songs, and styles people love (like Pandora + iTunes on steroids + years of watching your Friday night crowd’s heads bob to what you’re spinning…)

Now, Turntable captures all of this through the simple, yet powerful “awesome/lame” button interaction that is a core part of the turntable experience. ¬†We normally don’t think about it while using these buttons, but us users are providing real-time feedback and never-before-possible data…which will allow these DJs (in that room) as well as industry pros (with aggregated voting data) to learn quantitatively how the crowd responds to obvious questions, like “what are the most popular songs and styles”, but even more granular findings, such as how cread reaction is impacted by: (a) time of day (b) the previous few songs played (c) DJs reputation (d) user geography (e) user FB likes (remember, you join via Connect), etc.

Turntable has…what? ¬†Tens of thousands (and growing) users voting on hundreds of thousands of songs every day?? ¬†Assuming it continues to scale, we are quickly encroaching on uncharted user feedback data that’s hithertofore unimaginable.

The crazy thing is that DJs are already learning more than they’ve ever learned before about the type of music people want to hear and when…and this will make thousands of amateur DJs a lot better, help quickly surface new DJs, and ultimately…I believe, drive another boom in music innovation.

I realize that there’s another argument entirely about the dramatic dropoff in CD sales and a shift towards concerts and big troubles for the record companies…and I’m not anywhere close to being an expert on those things. ¬†Perhaps certain segments of the music industry will suffer, some forms of creation may be¬†inhibited¬†by this shift of power, etc.

But for me…a lover of technically enhanced music and someone who is willing to purchase the good stuff on iTunes in order to have it on my iPad…well, I’m just super excited about what the future holds in the form of music innovation, discovery, and optimizing toward user preferences in this statistically transparent & unprecedented way. ¬†One example of this that I LOVE, and am not afraid to admit…are Mashups.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about with mashups, and you’re curious…do yourself a favor and find some music by any of the following mashup folks: ¬†DJ Earworm, Kap Slap, Girl Talk, or anything having to do with Miike Snow. ¬†These guys are creating a genre of music which is a truly fantastical blend of other music that brings hardcore beats to pop songs that everyone loves (think Enya + Tupac).

Boom In Music & Mashups
Boom In Music & Mashups

On one hand, this new platform hurts the old guard of music labels and other intermediaries who the artist previously needed in order to capture economic value…but, it will simultaneously drive a further democratization of music and an explosion of a class of amateur DJs. ¬†This…tenfold? boom in the # of DJs will inevitably speed the evolution of music, prompting the emergence of new genres of music, help DJs to learn precisely how their users respond to the music, and to help content creators be able to iterate & improve at a faster rate than ever before. ¬†So, we’ll probably spawn fewer U2s and Mozarts in this new world…but I believe this new distribution channel & real-time feedback mechanism is going to lead to a boom in the speed of music creation and the quality of music curation, speeding the emergence of upstarts into superstars, and ultimately meaning more quality and less noise in my passive music listening. ¬†This was going to happen regardless…but I’m glad Turntable…and these other innovators…are giving us another big shove in that direction.

Do you agree that Turntable will help drive more innovation in music?  Are there other music pioneers I should know about?

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Entrepreneur, technologist.

3 thoughts on “Online Music Industry, You Spin Me Right ‘Round…”

  1. Turntable’s got a lot going for it at the moment, but I’m not sure it’s the data porn you’re hoping for.

    The major flaw for me is that you only get to pick 1 out of 5 songs. As a DJ that means you’re not in control of the build up and breakdown of the “set”. If you’re good, you pick something that melds nicely with the person before you, but then you’re out of luck for another 5 songs. What people want at 10am is different than at 2am so from an engineering standpoint it’s going to take a lot of heavy lifting to get through the data to produce relevant info.

    We loved it here at Boxee because it let all of us be DJ. But then we stopped using it because it felt like too much effort to DJ and work at the same time given that you couldn’t control the flow of the set effectively. We use Sonos & Spotify to do it now and love that setup.

    What’s most interesting to me is that the effort you’ll put into your music collection is continuously shifting from collection to curation. It used to be the guy with all the best records won. Now it’s the guy with the best playlist… It’s that you know of the song and how you mix it with others that matters.

    Then the question is how do you discover new music – friends & curators, which Spotify does really well. I downloaded their entire Mercury Award Winners List to my phone and have been slowly listening to Ghostpoet, PJ Harvey, Metronomy, and others on my morning commutes. I star ones I like and file them away in other playlists then delete the ones I don’t like. It’s my system (like the one you describe above).

    I think radio is frustrating for our generation because so much of it is driven by Top 40 crap (Adele excluded). I listen to KCRW (LA) and KEXP (Seattle) online because the music is an eclectic mix that suits my taste. So it’s not that radio’s dying – it’s just that most stations are trying to meet the demands of the biggest market so they can’t play guitarists from Mali, then ambient electronica, then Beirut – even if that’s what I want to hear.

    Overall it’s just awesome to be a music fan these days… more options, more music, more ways to discover it.

  2. Okay Kip…you convinced me. I’m crossing over to Spotify. How do the invites work? Do you have an extra one piled up somewhere?

    Also, makes sense…what you’re saying about the big issue of only playing every 5th song. I also got tired very quickly of being distracted with choosing songs. Just want to be in audience. Cant wait to follow your spotify lists.

  3. So far, I’m still getting more joy / utility from Turntable than Spotify. Maybe I’m just a game mechanics snob.

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