It seems like I have to try out just about every internet music site. I’m an elder statesman over at last.fm having been there since 2004. I tried Rhapsody on pretty early on, but ultimately jettisoned it because of the fact that I couldn’t take the music with me. I was itching for a Spotify invite and when I got one, I was underwhelmed. So when my friend Matt emailed me a link to turntable.fm, I was intrigued.
Turntable is getting quite a bit of good buzz – much of it deserved. It’s really amazing when you think about it. What it does is it gives you the ability to play music in real time with friends. It takes Pandora a step further and makes you the DJ. There are rooms of every stripe and persuasion in which you can play music. Some are theme based, some are anything goes. Basically, what Turntable does is put you in control of what music gets played – or rather, what music YOU play. You don’t get that kind of control over the people. Naturally, the same restrictions that seem to plague digital music still apply. You can’t play more than three songs from one album or four songs from the same artist in a 3 hour period so no all Madonna rooms (pesky DMCA.) But with all the songs out there, who needs to?
The only bit of control you get over other people’s music choices is via the “lame” and “awesome”-meter. If you like the song, you can “awesome” it and they pick up DJ points. If you hate it, you can “lame” it. If enough people in the room “lame” a song, it gets skipped. Honestly, I’ve never lamed a single song. If I don’t like it, I turn the volume way down or mute the song altogether until it is over and something else starts playing. Still, I’ve managed to discover quite a bit of new music via good old Turntable although admittedly, a lot of it is “new to me” music.
But the laming and awesomeing of songs is where I really start to have trouble. Mostly, I have trouble with anything that judges my musical taste. Even though I write about it all the time here and seem to have no problem with sharing all my cheesiest guilty pleasures with the entire internet, when you get right down to it, I’m kind of shy about my music. There are things that I listen to that I don’t even like to listen to in the presence of my wife – not because she would judge it (she might, but only in jest) but I still, after all these years, am very self-conscious about what I listen to. Part of it is because I’m as serious as a heart attack about the music I listen to, even the cheesy pop. Music listening is largely a solitary activity for me and I have an intense attachment to the music that’s been with me my whole life, sometimes to my detriment. My friend Steve is forever telling me to back slowly away from the Olivia Newton-John and start listening to something new. It’s for my own good. But still, when I’m put in a position like the one Turntable puts me in, offering up my musical taste for public evisceration, I find myself shying away from it. When you add in the anonymous nature that the internet provides and how it’s just a small skip to saying things there that you would never dream of saying to someone’s face, the whole thing just has me oddly ill at ease.
So what I’ve decided about Turntable is that it, like so many things, is better with people you know. The trouble is I don’t know a terrible number of people on there. Sure, I’ve DJ’d in rooms with people that I have “gotten to know” in a “I have no idea if you’re male or female or anything about you” sort of way. Honestly, though, I’d rather be in there with people I know in real life. Matt used to be in there a lot, but then a new Lindsey Buckingham album came out and I’m pretty sure he’s been listening to that ever since (if he didn’t, I would think he’d been replaced by a pod person.) For me, people that know me in real life are more likely to know my idiosyncrasies when it comes to music and love me for it or in spite of it.
What I’m really trying to say is come and play some songs with me. I can’t stand jumping into a random room full of people who are likely to kick me to the curb for playing something I love.