Turntable.fm, which recently raised $7 million from Union Square Ventures, is the latest start-up phenomenon that's rocked the music world. With 800,000 users in just four months, the music-discovery service has made sitting in virtual rooms with bopping-head avatars the new social listening experience.
The analogy in the offline world is having a "bunch of people sitting in a livingroom taking turns playing songs," said Seth Goldstein, co-founder and Chairman, in a recent interview with me. "It's fundamentally about listening to music together." Indeed, rooms are limited to 200 people and chatting amongst one another is a big part of the experience. The limited number creates intimacy, which in turn drives engagement, said Goldstein.
(Note: Be sure to watch Billy Chasen, the other co-founder of Turntable.fm, at this week's Venture Shift NY event on November 17. VatorNews readers can get 15% off using Shift15 as the discount code, go here.)
Here are some highlights from my interview:
- The service will always be free to consumers. But over time, consumers who want more bling for their avatars will have to pay up.
- Unlike Pandora, whose music genome algorithm underlies the music played, Turntable's music-discovery algorithm is based on people (or DJs as they're known on the service) who select music for one another. Because DJs want to remain popular, they have certain sensibilities computer programs can never mimic. "If you play something that is lame, you'll get kicked off the stage," said Goldstein. Music selection has to be relevant, not obscure, and not so popular. "It has to have a set of dynamics that creates good quality."
- Goldstein credits his co-founder Billy Chasen for the simple UI. "Billy Chasen has a beautiful mind for complex social systems that are really easy to us." Turntable has gaming features, like points for good music selection, and chat to communicate.
- The idea evolved from StickyBits, a failed barcode-scanning service. With $400,000 left in the bank, from $2 million in initial investment, Chasen and Goldstein rolled the dice with Turntable, an idea brewing in Chasen's head for some time. (More on this in a later interview.)
- How did the service get viral? Besides having "a fair amount of luck," the service was built with "sharing" in mind, said Goldstein. Inherent in the system is an opportunity to share with friends. "The marketing was built as such. If you went up to DJ, and you wanted peole to know you were playing that song, you could Facebook and Tweet it."
- Turntable has access to 15 million songs and is streaming about one million songs a day.
- Turntable is not a purely passive listening experience, like Pandora. Nor is it purely on-demand, like Spotify.
- Turntable raised $7 million for a reported valuation of $37 million. Goldstein said the capital will take the company out "as long as possible."