Making Music Social: Turntable.fm and What It Means for the Future of the Music Industry

 

Hype, early adopters, and perfect timing: these are the attributes that the newly minted Turntable.fm bring to the table, and if you’ve never used it, then you’ve probably heard of it. There’s no question that it’s taking over the social music space in a big, big way.

Turntable.fm is changing the way music is heard and, more importantly, shared. It’s all completely reliant on the concept that the best way to find music you’ve never heard before is through your own social network– not the radio, random CDs, or a trip to Best Buy. Simply login through Facebook, find a room, and if there’s an empty DJ slot (5 per room maximum), play a song that the rest of the room will hear, then sit back and enjoy the other 4 DJs’ songs before you’re up for your next turn.  Some rooms will be more popular than others, so it can be hard to find a room with both an open DJ spot and a sizeable audience. Mark Zuckerberg has even graced the “Coding” room with his presence and DJed some of his favorite tunes, luring in hundreds to check out the Facebook god’s musical palette.

But what do social music sharing sites like Turntable.fm all mean for the music industry’s trends, and what direction is music being taken with the advance of Web 2.0? Some musical artists have taken the hint and realized that one of the only real ways to gain visibility as an artist is to provide some portion of their music for free over the web. Other artists and labels alike have been slow to catch on, suffering major losses in sales and potential revenues as a consequence.

The advent and exponential rise in popularity of Turntable.fm is another stepping stone along the path to an increasingly apparent truth: all music is being pushed to the web as the primary medium through which it is heard, and label executives have to figure out how to monetize intelligently. The average community of music listeners is, in fact, the new-age record label. Through unique page views, user comments, and the ability to share through social sites like Facebook, Soundcloud, and now Turntable.fm, marketing a music artist has never been so much in the hands of listeners. Just look at Rebecca Black’s “Friday;” the song became such a viral hit that no matter how musically distasteful you might have thought it was, you still heard it from one of your friends’ status updates and had it stuck in your head for at least a few minutes. That is the power of the new music-sharing wave.

Music labels are facing the truth that there is little they can do to market new artists. They are becoming more responsible now for signing the most up-and-coming talent to their rosters. One doesn’t have to search too hard to see that this is now trending—Bay Area native rapper Kreayshawn got signed to Columbia/Sony Music Entertainment for a reported $1 million contract just three days after releasing her video “Gucci Gucci” and going viral with it. Now that Sony is handing Kreayshawn the reigns to take care of her own marketing to increase her fan base, they can move on to focus on the creation and distribution of her full studio artist album, something fans would pay for after having heard so much of her material at no cost.

Turntable.fm is no doubt a reflection of where music is and how it is all going to be listened to tomorrow. Web 2.0 and social networking allow us to listen to what our friends like, while also allowing our friends to listen to what we like. The issue ahead lies with how once financially robust music labels are going to adapt. It won’t be too long before the average listener stops buying individual songs off iTunes and starts streaming all music from the cloud.

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