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Rockin' Our Turntable: Turntable.FM/Chicagoist

By Jon Graef in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 7, 2011 6:00PM


In the here today, gone today world of social media, caution is a surprising, but invaluable watchword. After all, today’s Twitter is tomorrow’s MySpace, Friendster, or Chatrouettte. What burns brightly in the conscious of the Internet age can go the way of the dodo in the blink of an eye. So let’s have fun with Turntable.FM as quickly as possible, before someone or something inevitably screws it up.

Maybe that's a little too harsh of an opener. Let's try this: What the deuce is Turntable.FM?

An invite-only* beta, Turntable.FM lets its users play music in real time, in a digital room, for free. Using avatars, up to five members can stream songs one-at-a-time using music that they either uploaded, or that currently exists in the Turntable.FM library. (The library in turn uses digital content provider Medianet in order to access said songs. For more background, check out Wall Street Journal writer Peter Kafka's thankfully not Kafka-esque explanation here.)

Once songs are played, the listeners, also represented by avatars, vote on whether or not a song is "awesome" or "lame." If a song is voted "awesome," the DJ who played it earns a point. If the song gets enough "lame" votes, the track is then skipped, and the song goes to the next DJ. If it's voted "awesome" enough times, the DJ supposedly gets another turn. (I say supposedly because that's what everyone says, but I've yet to see it happen). When a DJ earns a certain amount of points, they can upgrade their avatar, and choose between insects, bears, and pimped-out gorillas, just to name a distinct few.

While there have been questions raised about the legality of Turntable.FM, for the time being, the service is an insanely fun way to share streaming music. (Those legal issues in sum: Turntable.FM did not seek permission from major labels before they started their streaming. Oh boy).

In the Chicagoist room, you'll find writers and readers playing, and talking about, music. We're excited this has the potential to be a really direct way to introduce Chicagoist readers and peers to music we writers have been enjoying--whether it's local music we're just finding out about, heavy hitters who once considered Chicago home, or songs that are timeless crowd-pleasers.

It IS in beta, so, naturally, there are more than a few glitches, including random freezes.


So, if you feel like it, come on down to the Chicagoist room, and listen to writers and your fellow commenters play some tunes. We'll be there. You should be too. After all, it may not last.

One last side note: As far as business savvy goes, I'm an excellent English major, so take this suggestion for what it's worth: As cool as it is to redeem DJ points for avatars, maybe Turntable.FM can get around the legality issue by allowing its users to redeem their points for songs or credits from digital retailers like Amazon or eMusic instead. Because while I'll have fun DJing as a giant monkey, I'd really like to be able to add Frankie Knuckles or Syl Johnson to my music library instead. (Of course, Turntable does allow users to click on links to buy tracks, but I think this way would be a lot more fun.)

*About those invites: if a Facebook friend of yours is already on Turntable.FM you can join too! But doing so requires allowing the app considerable access to your private information. If you're OK with this, then great. But don't be surprised if you have to name your first child "Zuckerberg Von SorkinSucks."