Turntable.fm Showing How Sharing Music Is Communication

from the the-shared-experience-is-what-makes-culture dept

We've already talked about just how amazing Turntable.fm is for its users. The key point we made was how it totally makes music social in a way that's incredibly powerful.
I noted how much it reminded me of when I was an actual DJ on the radio many years ago, where so much of the fun wasn't just in playing music, but in hanging out with a bunch of friends and playing music together. Others are recognizing this as well. In one of the most splutteringly gushing reviews of the service, ever, Sam Grobart at the NY Times highlights this same key point by noting that sharing music is communication:
It doesn’t matter if you start a room with some nearby cubicle mates or with friends scattered across the globe: what you begin to realize — almost instantly — is that taking turns playing music with friends is a kind of communication. One song leads to another. Music, enjoyable in and of itself, becomes a sort of shorthand when played among people who have shared memories attached to it. Someone plays a song that was popular when you were college, then another friend plays another song from that same period and — just like that — you’ve traveled back in time. It’s like you’re all sharing in the same inside joke.

And this feeling is reflected not just in the choice of songs, but in the comments that friends post. Someone digs a lost hit out of the crates and the message board lights up with comments from friends (O.K., my friends) saying things like “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” and “my head is exploding.”

Using Turntable can even help you make friends with people you only know in passing. If you’re D.J.-ing in a room with co-workers, you may never have realized that you and the guy across the floor both like Afropop. Now you have something new to talk about at the soda machine.
Later, he notes: "When your old college roommate surprises you with that Deee-Lite song the two of you used to rock out to, you know it’s more than just music: it’s a message."

Indeed. After writing my original post on Turntable.fm and how it reminded me of hanging out and DJing with a group of others -- people who I was close friends with at the time, but have mostly lost contact with -- I reached out to many of my former co-DJs to talk about setting up a "reunion" via Turntable.fm. It's hard to use Turntable.fm and not recognize that sharing music is a very legitimate form of communication.

In many ways, it's a further manifestation of a point about culture that Julian Sanchez raised a couple years ago, about how culture is built off of shared cultural experiences. It's the sharing part of culture that makes the culture valuable. If only you experience it, it just doesn't have the same power. Turntable.fm's key reason for being so addictive is that it's one of the first operations, whether on purpose or not, that has effectively taken that key aspect of culture, and turned it into a service.

However, separate from just how Turntable.fm highlights this key point, I think it also helps explain why the legacy recording industry and many politicians have made so many wrong and counterproductive moves concerning dealing with music in the internet era. Rather than realizing that music is communication, they look at it solely as a unit of content. When you view music as a unit of content, even as the fans of music actually view it as a form of communication, you're going to clash. That's because many of the ways that people communicate via music break down the concept of music being a unit of content. And, in the end, that's what a lot of the legal and policy battles have been about over the past couple decades. A very large group of people are communicating with music... and some big legacy players are simply not set up to even comprehend that, let alone cater to it.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Fzzr (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 1:29pm

    new user's perspective

    I've been using turntable just for the last week. For me, what's been the best part of it is the mini-community aspect - there's a facebook group around the room I frequent most often, and it has regulars and in-jokes. The service isn't perfect, but that just means there's lots of room for improvement and further innovation. Of course, any changes to the core service will have to clear the RIAA anti-innovation hurdle. As it is, It's already something that I find myself spending a lot of time on - and I've never seen music as a truly social experience until now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    FatGiant (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 1:30pm

    Sadly, not for everyone

    I loved the experience, and in the 3 days I had the privilege to use it, ended up meeting people that I would never ever have the chance to find, that share many of the same cultural references that I do.

    Now, locked behind an arbitrary border, that makes absolutely no sense in the Internet, I am locked out.

    Yes, I could use one of the many ways to break that limitation. But, why should I? I would feel like a thief, I would know that I was trespassing. And that would remove all value from the experience, and from the communication I could have there, because I wouldn't dare sharing anything about myself, because the rooms are monitored, and all conversations are stored. So, no, I don't feel like going there anymore, because I am a pariah in their terms.

    So, it is a GREAT service if you happen to live in the "right" side of the world. Not for the us that are outside.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Sadly, not for everyone

    I feel your pain. But don't blame turntable.fm - it's the onerous licensing terms demanded by the industry that force them to geo-block it. Keeping a service like that legal within the U.S. is hard enough - keeping it legal globally is virtually impossible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    FatGiant (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 1:54pm

    Yeah! I know.

    Or I could blame myself for not being smart enough to live in a place that is "in".

    A place where Pandora is accessible, last.fm is free (as in gratis), Hulu works, Netflix is available, CBS videos aren't blocked, Spotify is allowed, etc.

    Yeah, it's my fault really.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 1:54pm

    Sure to be popular with 14-year old girls.

    But for grown-ups? I'm pretty sure not.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 1:55pm

    Well, turntable.fm has signed licensing agreements with both ASCAP and BMI. I'm hoping that these two performance rights groups don't try to strangle it right out of existence with ever-increasing fees, but they both kind of have that track record.

    http://wecreatemusic.ascap.com/wecreatemusic/post/2011/07/20/Hot-New-Music-Site-Turntable fm-Is-Licensed-by-ASCAP.aspx


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 1:58pm

    Re: Sure to be popular with 14-year old girls.

    Yeah, it's rare you meet a grown-up who likes music, and the few who do have absolutely no interest in sharing it with anyone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 2:01pm

    Re: Sure to be popular with 14-year old girls.


    Obviously, you've never used it. It's very popular with grown-ups.

    The only people it's not popular with are people who hate music, people who hate talking about music, people who hate sharing music, people who hate sharing communal experiences centering on a common interest, people with absolutely no friends, acquaintances or others who can put up with them for more than three minutes at a time, etc.

    It's also highly unpopular with repetitive contrarians who post knee-jerk responses to every single article at various websites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    mike allen (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 2:19pm

    Its already killed for us in the UK no way am i prepared to wait for it when it comes be restricted to just UK or europe forget it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    gigglehurtz (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Re: Sure to be popular with 14-year old girls.

    repetitive contrarian

    I like that. I've got a friend who I sometimes think of as a loud mouthed asshole who just want to argue no matter how ridiculous the argument. Now I can think of him as a repetitive contrarian. Cool! Thanks!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    David Liu (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re: Sure to be popular with 14-year old girls.

    Then again, repetitive contrarians are unpopular even with themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:06pm


    I'm not holding my breath on that one either.

    I mean I still can't get on Pandora. How long has that service been running?

    The music business people doesn't want people to listen to music. Well Fuck Them, and good luck. I'll listen to soma.fm and stations like that, that do welcome my listening ears.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    lol, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 7:04pm

    Where's Linux?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    mrtraver (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 7:13pm

    Dammit, none of my lame-ass music hating commie pinko facebook friends have this! Neither do any of my cool music loving God-fearing gun-toting rock star musician friends, so I can't get in on all the turntable.fm lovin'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2011 @ 7:41am

    I've tried three times to get on turntable.fm to see what the hype is all about. So far I've never been able to get past the sign-in screen and the notice that they'll contact me when they have openings. I guess I'm not friends with any of the right people on Facebook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), Jul 22nd, 2011 @ 9:42am

    It's not your fault either.

    It's not your fault either. It's because there are a lot of legal hurdles to jump through (especially that of international copyright law) that make something great like turntable.fm inaccessible to the non-US portion of the world. Since copyright varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction (i.e. country to country), synchronizing a music-sharing service across borders seems like a far-off dream.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Ed, Jul 24th, 2011 @ 9:54am

    Only Windows and Apple???

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Chris (profile), Jul 26th, 2011 @ 6:08am


    Ha. That was the first thing that went through my head too...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. icon
    Fzzr (profile), Jul 26th, 2011 @ 11:59am


    I think it's hilarious that they use the ubuntu symbol for every flavor of linux and *BSD, but the chrome os has it's own symbol.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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