Last week was Social Media Week, with hosted discussions across the globe about the social networking phenomenon. Jennifer Waits and I attended some interesting panels on Friday at Adobe’s headquarters in San Francisco, among them one on the future of social music. During the discussion Seth Goldstein, co-founder of my favorite social networking site: Turntable.fm, offered an interesting and candid assessment of the service.
The panel’s moderator, Josh Constein of TechCrunch, asked Goldstein and the other panelists which formats they thought would prevail in the near future: those that catered to aficionados who take charge of the service, or those that, like Pandora, serve more casual listeners.
“I like your formulation of aficionados using streaming-on-demand and more mass consumers using radio,” Goldstein responded. “That’s kind of how it works within Turntable. You have your deejays who are up there actively managing your queue, then you’ve got people in the rooms just leaning back and listening. It presents an interesting hybrid model to the music industry.”
As the conversation continued, Constein got back to Goldstein on that point.
“Do you consider Turntable.fm to be a sort of primary experience where people, while they using it they’re looking at the Turntable interface?” Constein asked. “Or is this something that is primarily used by people in the background while they’re doing other things online or using their phone?”
“I wish it was more background,” Goldstein replied. “In a way I think there are a lot of passive services that aim to be more engaging. We have the opposite problem. It’s really engaging for a small community. Because typically, if you use Turntable, you go in and you get addicted, and spend four days of your life not doing much of anything else. And then you say, ‘I just can’t do this any more. I’ve got to get back to my life.’ Right?”
“So our challenge is how do we open up Turntable to make it easier for passive listening,” Goldstein continued. “The reality is that I love Turntable. My kids love Turntable.” But when making dinner, “I’ll put on Pandora and just put it in the background.”
“With Turntable, if I put it in the background, and someone wants to chat with me, because they know my identity is in that room, I’m anxious. I don’t want to feel that I’m ignoring them.”
I love Turntable too, and listen to it all the time. The background/foreground question is less of a problem for me, personally, because I spend most of my hours in the tt.fm Classical of Any Kind (COAK) room, which tends to focus on pieces of longer length (eg, Beethoven’s Fifth, Finale). It’s just a much less frenetic room than the mashup or dubstep hangouts.
But COAK is the exception that proves the rule. I can think of several ways that might help Turntable become more of a background service.
The first would be to let non-deejay users identify themselves as “away from keyboard” while they’re in a particular room. The acronym “AFK” would literally appear next to the user name of someone who chose this option. This would let other participants know that they’re making dinner, and not available to chat, thus dialing down the anxiety factor.
The second might be to let deejays play more than one song at a time. This could get complicated, but room creators could opt to allow deejays to queue up to three non-repetitive songs in a row. This would allow aficionados a little more kicking back and breathing time.
Any other ideas for helping Turntable.fm recruit some more of the Pandora crowd?