No recent Internet time suck has sucked more time than Turntable.fm. And by sucked I mean consumed my idle and active click time. The beauty of the website/community is that it can provide a constant soundtrack to your day in the micro-genre of your choosing. At work. At home. Really whenever you’re at a computer (or soon an iPhone and iPad). You can be a zombie and just absorb the tunes or participate by chatting about music or stepping up to the decks to spin your own favorite tracks.
But Turntable.fm isn’t just another Pandora/musical genome project that projects your desires with a few reasonable but not entirely obscure suggestions. Turntable is programmed by thousands of other delusional DJs just like you and me (and some of the real DJ variety I might add). It works like this: there are five “decks” in per listening room. Patrons take turns (at least in the more civil rooms, in others it can be a free-for-all) spinning their chosen tracks. I spend most of my time in the Alt 80’s/New Wave room and moonlight in the alt-rock and old school hip-hop rooms. This has as much to do with the people that populate the room as it does the killer jams from the lost 80’s. Turntable really provides a community resource where like-minded people can congregate based on musical preference.
The wealth of musical knowledge to be found here boggles the mind. That’s not to say that you’re going to get booed off the decks if you spin the welcome regulars like New Order and the Smiths. If you’re not hip to the obscure and forgotten 80’s and want to learn more than you’d ever imagined, just sit back and absorb and add to your own playlists. Turntable offers a number of ways to catalog favorite songs within the program but also in cooperation with iTunes and Spotify. (The search, sort and tagging features need some improvement but hopefully the full Turntable program will offer improved clerical tools.)
As a record collector/enthusiast this kind of interaction is dangerous in the best kind of way. Rarely a day goes by that I don’t add something to my vinyl shop wish list. Today for example I stopped into the Half-Price Books for my regular record browse (to hold me over until the real trips to Attic Records in Millvale)… all the bands from Turntable fresh in my mind – artists that are perfect for a second-hand store. Long forgotten and discarded 80s vinyl is the best kind. It’s in good condition, generally inexpensive and readily available. I’m not talking about Huey Lewis or Kenny Loggins again so just Frankie Say Relax, okay?
I’m talking specifically about an artist like Adam Ant. How many still routinely play Adam Ant tracks? I know I’d filed him away in the storage box at the back of my brain. But here in the Alt 80’s room, Ant is a favorite play. So guess what I found today? Two mint Adam Ant records: Friend or Foe and Strip. This guy made great alt-pop… maybe you’d just forgotten. Along with Adam Ant, I took him a Buggles record and Thomas Dolby’s Aliens Ate My Buick. I picked up the Buggles record for “Video Killed the Radio Star” but was surprised at the excellence of their deep cuts. Symphonic background mixed with low-key bleeps and bloops. The stigma one-hit wonder often tarnishes a great record. Since when does anyone that actually care about music judge a band based on its radio hits? Even I seem to forget this sometimes. Vinyl and Turntable.fm have reminded me to listen to the rest of the album.
There’s no greater way to raise your DJ cred than by playing a deep cut that gets the whole room bobbing. While Turntable.fm is, first and foremost, about the music it is also about connecting with people in more personal ways that uninspired friend requests and wall posts in Facebook or a casual Twitter follow. Turntable connects people through music and conversation about music which for many of us is the most revealing connection of all.
(To join the Turntable.fm community, log in with your Facebook account. The program is still technically in a Beta-testing phase so full-on open registration is not yet possible.)