Turntable.fm Gets Social Network Building Right

I’ve written about the challenges of social network building and the pitfalls of beta-testing recently, but I also want to highlight a site that I think is doing a lot of things right, and ultimately has the chance to carve out a really strong place in the social media universe. Turntable.fm has put together a really strong offering that hits on several elements of personal behavior and psychology. They definitely are getting the buzz going, with Kanye West coming on board as an investor. I’ve identified seven areas where the platform is hitting the right notes from a user perspective:


1. Tapping into a activity that people are genuinely passionate about

Music transcends all barriers. Age, sex, income, political leaning, religion, nationality – all those get thrown out the window with music. I really think this is a key element to why some sites thrive and others fail. The successful site taps into a passion that you have offline, and gives value to you around that passion. This blog post from Sysomos echoes this sentiment, noting the importance of emotional connections in social media success.


2. Let’s you share your passion

In various ways, Spotify, Pandora and Turntable.fm all let your share with your social graph. This is critical as music is (or at least can be) such a social activity. One aspect of Turntable.fm I really like is the email alerts letting you know when a DJ you have become a fan of is now playing. That’s a great prompt to get people on the site in a meaningful way. You’ve probably become a fan of one of your friends, so it’s natural that you’d want to jump on when they are on.


Last night a DJ saved my online music experience.

3. Great user interface

Where Turntable.fm really excels is in the user interface. Where Spotify, Pandora, iTunes and Google Music all act as a sort of radio, Turntable.fm is a club. Five DJs are set up at the back of the room with the rest of the people in the “room” acting as the audience. At any one time there are dozens of these rooms, playing different types of music. Setting of the look of Turntable.fm this way would be fine even without the DJs, but that’s really the secret sauce of the site…

4. Appealing to the inner-music snob in all of us

Let’s face it, you have great taste in music. Better than all your friends. You’ve always known you could be a DJ, traveling to France, New York, Ibiza, all the places where the cool kids hang out. But unless your last name is Ronson, Turntable.fm is as close as you’re probably going to get. The brilliant part is that you do get that nervous feeling right before your song is played. Will the crowd like it? Will I get kicked off the stage? There is a very simply plus/minus type meter that let’s you know how the crowd feels. If it starts drifting towards the negative, you can feel the sweat trickling down your back.

5. Music selection

Turntable.fm, rather than counting on you to have a massive library of club bangers, allows you to search for titles, artists or albums in the cloud. Just search and add to your playlist and you are ready to go. A great feature that let’s you grab your all-time favorites, or poach the latest from Lady Gaga with just a couple of mouse clicks.

6. Purchase, transfer and other business opportunities.

Like a song the DJ is playing? Turntable.fm connects you to Amazon, iTunes, Last.fm, Spotify and rdio. This recent Ad Age article talks about online social music platform business models,and the New York Egotist also hits on the brands (and agencies) that have rushed to Turntable.fm.

Earn a harder, better, faster, stronger avatar.

7. Good use of game mechanics

Of course, what online experience today would be complete without game mechanics? But rather than going badge-crazy, Turntable.fm has kept it low key and relevant. Yes, you can earn points, but not through random, mindless clicking. You have to play music (engage with the platform) that people like (engage with other users).  Right now those points allow you to earn access to increasingly sophisticated avatars.  Can you enjoy Turntable.fm without using the game mechanics at all? Sure, just enjoy the tunes. But for those with egos or a competitive streak, your itch gets scratched as well.


That’s a lot of things being done right.  All in all I think it bodes well for Turntable.fm to create a viable business model for the platform in the future.