I have a new love in the office and it’s called Turntable.fm. If you haven’t heard about this web application, it’s a website where you can go and play music. Except it’s not just you playing music, it’s a table where you and up to 4 other friends each rotate playing music. So, you play a song, then your friend, then another friend and then back to you (if only 3 people in the room). If you’ve in an office where music playing is public or you want to get music suggestions from friends, this is the perfect application.
There have been a million music applications built in the past 5 years, so the question is: why is turntable successful where the other ones weren’t. Here’s why:
- It’s inherently social. The internet is a different medium. It’s not TV, it’s not print and it’s not a stereo. It’s wrong to try to recreate any of those (although people try all the time). It’s a new medium and it’s key characteristic is that it’s an interactive place. What was a Zagat’s book became Yelp. What was an encylopedia became Wikipedia. Items that embrace the crowd work. This is what Turntable has done. It’s embracing other people and making that it’s key characteristic.
- Music discovery. There’s a circle of music consumption that we used to pitch at Qloud that goes, (1) you buy a song, (2) you play a song, (3) you find a new song and then go back to step 1. With iTunes, Amazon and many others, the markets in Steps 1 and 2 are pretty mature. However, the discovery piece is still wide open. Pandora is doing a good job there but there’s still not a dominant service that will tell you what your friends want to hear. We did a pretty good job at Qloud and it’s one of the reasons we got to 25 million monthly uniques but it’s still a problem on the web. Ask your friend how they find out about new music and most will say that they don’t.
Sure there are other reasons why it works (huge catalog of music and it’s free) but i believe the two above are the main reasons. It should also be noted that just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be lucrative. In my opinion, a music startup is still a bad idea. If you don’t believe me, ask Imeem and iLike – both of which had tens of millions of users – how they made out (Imeem sold for $1MM after raising 25MM and iLIke sold for $15MM after raising $16MM).