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Thursday March 15, 2012 12:31 pm

Why Turntable.fm matters, and how it enhances music discovery

Posted by Andru Edwards Categories: Editorial, Features, Internet, Music

Turntable.fm music discovery

Right now I'm at SXSW, sitting in on the Turntable.fm DJ Battle that's taking place over the next two hours. There are a few DJs on stage playing their best tracks in an attempt to rock the crowd, and as things are unfolding, I can see some real potential for Turntable.fm to bring something to the table that the Spotifys, Rdios, and Rhapsodys of the world just aren't able to deliver at the moment, especially now that Turntable has secured licensing rights from all four of the major record labels here in the U.S.

One thing that's annoyed me about the streaming music services thus far is that the catalogs of music offered are just the tracks as they stand on the albums they were released on. As someone born in 1980, and who enjoyed a bunch of music in the 90s (an era that relied heavily on sampling, remixing, and music mashups,) there are plenty of memorable tracks that had airplay on the radio in my hometown of New York City that simply don't exist on Spotify or Rhapsody. In many cases, these mixes enhanced the track or brought out different nuances in the vocals that you didn't realize were there. Even if you have these tracks in your personal music library, and add them to a shared Spotify playlist, your friends still won't be able to play that track unless they have it in their library. That kinda kill the whole discovery thing. Let's be honest, the majority of remixes are pretty bad anyway, so if I didn't already know it was awesome, why would I give a random remix in a friends library a try?

With Turntable.fm, these issues are handled beautifully. First, you can play any track from your library, and anyone in that room can hear the track as it's played in real time. Since the people playing tracks in Turntable.fm are hoping to get a positive reaction from the crowd in the room, you know that they're going to play some of the best tracks that they have available in their library. In other words, not only do you get a shared music experience, but you pretty much get a bunch of music versions and mixes that you haven't ever heard, along with the promise that they'll all be at least pretty good, because the person playing them is hoping to get the Awesome button pressed (rather than the dreaded Lame!) in order to gain DJ cred.

Sitting here in the battle room, I'm listening to 5 DJs play tracks that I'm experiencing for the first time. 5 people I don't know personally are truly bringing it, and I've found 6 tracks so far that I've had to jot down to find later for myself since I likd them so much. Until a service can provide a fantastic streaming catalog alongside these kinds of top notch collaborative listening experiences that provide such a high level of serendipity, digital music will remain in this stagnant "me too" area that it feels like we've been stuck in for the past year or so.

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