The Advantage Of Copycat Startups: Will Rolling.fm Keep Turntable.fm Innovating?

from the one-can-hope dept

We’ve written a few times about the wonders of Turntable.fm, one of the first new music services that really seems to get the fact that part of what makes music so enjoyable is the social experience. It’s a wonderful service. However, as with anything that gets a lot of users and attention, it isn’t long before copycats come along. And, as Eliot van Buskirk has reported, Turntable.fm has a copycat in the form of Rolling.fm, a service that almost certainly chose to copy an awful lot from Turntable.fm.

Of course, as with many “copycats,” it appears that Rolling.fm has tried to add some features that sound useful, “such as the ability to see who is in a room in one big list, and a private chat feature that lets you speak directly to Facebook friends even if they?re in a different room.” But I tend to agree with Eliot in noting that this is not a bad thing:

Who cares? The world needs all the neat ways to listen to music it can get, from where we?re standing. It?s a case of ?the more the merrier? ? even if Rolling.fm is quite possibly the least original web app we?ve ever seen.

It?s also a case of ?different strokes for different folks.?

The Rolling.fm group-listening web app differs from Turntable.fm in that many of the most popular rooms correlate to specific colleges and universities (although anyone can join those rooms). And so far, we?re hearing far clubbier and less indie music than we generally hear on Turntable.fm.

Who knows ? we could be just about to witness an explosion of group listening services, each with its own twist on the Turntable.fm concept that will appeal to a different demographic. While Turntable.fm deserves ample credit for coming up with the concept, it can?t really be bad for music fans if that concept continues to be replicated as it has been here?

I’d go even further than that. Copycats like this actually help everyone, including Turntable.fm. Not only does it help spread the concept even further, but Turntable.fm can just as equally learn from the “improvements” a copycat makes. On top of that, this will help keep Turntable.fm on its toes. As much as I love the service, and as much as I understand that it’s very much in beta and at times struggles with the amount of usage it gets, the service has been really buggy at times and having some direct competition in the rear view mirror can only act as an incentive to improve as quickly as possible.

Last year, we wrote about Oded Shenkar’s excellent book Copycats, which argues, persuasively, that our cultural distaste towards companies that copy one another is misplaced and not very sensible. There are tremendous benefits to be had when two or more companies copy each other, mainly in that it continues to push all players to innovate and to provide better overall offerings. While I haven’t been able to test out Rolling.fm yet (it was down when I went to check it out), I think this development is really good news for Turntable.fm and hope that the company is willing to recognize that as well.

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Companies: rolling.fm, turntable.fm

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Comments on “The Advantage Of Copycat Startups: Will Rolling.fm Keep Turntable.fm Innovating?”

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34 Comments
drewmo (profile) says:

Ha, cool. I finally used Turntable for the first time just yesterday and I thought it was really fun.

But one of the things I was surprised was missing WAS the ability to just view a list of everyone in the room. It seems obvious that you’d want to see how many people are listening to you, and scan a sorted list to see if so-and-so is still in the room. Instead you have to mouseover everyone’s avatar to see who’s there, which is annoying.

So yeah, if a copycat helps spur the creation of features like that, I’m for it.

out_of_the_blue says:

"companies that copy one another" -- Like the "news" industry?

Same stories from every source, just repeating the press handouts with the official line, effectively constraining the area of debate, especially with pundits who are Establisment shills.

Copying is just the manifestation of mediocrity.

And as a business tactic, it may not work because the market for that kind of website is small, so none will be able to reach sustaining.

Jose_X (profile) says:

one step back, two forward

.. as concerns software development advantages:

If any firm (eg, turntable) can’t keep up with a more efficient other firm (or firm with more investment money spent on software development) that might have “copied” key ideas, then it might help this first firm to open source the software efforts (allowing for even more competition but, at the same time, leveling the playing field against these firms that can pose significant threat, eg, because of significant $$ backing).

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Re: Competition spurring improvement

But are you using version 6, 7, 8 or 9 of said webbrowser?
That makes a big difference.

For instance, Google+ does not work with IE6 and 7, for a few very good reasons. The biggest one being the fact that both those browsers have horrible support for common web standards. And it would cost anyone a lot of energy, time and resources to get these sites to work in just one of those browsers?

If you’re still running 6 or 7, why is that? Why would you willingly use an outdated browser? If it’s because you’re not allowed to install a newer version on your office pc, then what the heck are you doing on a music site like turntable.fm during work hours? 🙂

mrtraver (profile) says:

Re: Re: Competition spurring improvement

I’m using version 9 (although Yahoo and some other sites keep telling me I need to upgrade to 8!) I’ve tried compatibility mode with no luck. It does work with Firefox and Chrome; I just never have been a huge fan of those even after using each for several months. But even if I use turntable.fm with those, the plurality of users (and possibly the majority of facebook users) probably use some version of IE. The problem may be something unique to my system, but I have not found a place to report it as an issue (and the forum post I tried just turned to an IE bash, with nothing useful).

At work we just finally upgrade to IE7 last year, so i guess no Google+ for me there. 🙂 (As iff our web filter would let that pass anyway!)

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