Group Listening Goes Mobile With Turntable.fm for iPhone

A few weeks ago, I covered the new (and as one commenter reminded me, US-only) social music web service Turntable.fm. It’s a fantastic social listening service that aggregates users into digital performances spaces where they can take turns spinning tracks and showing off their impeccable taste.

The folks behind Turntable.fm released an iPhone app that lets you connect to the service from your mobile device. Notably, you connect to the same service that a web app user uses, which means that you can interact with users on desktop computers, and instead of showing a Windows or Mac machine when you’re at the DJ table, the audience will see that you’re connected from an iPhone. Unfortunately, like the web app, the iPhone app is only available in US App Store for the time being. Let’s break this thing down after the jump.

Interface & Usability

The interface for the Turntable.fm iPhone app is surprisingly identical to that of the web app. Upon running the app for the first time and connecting to your Facebook account (sorry non-Facebook users!), you’ll be given a list of rooms to join. Each entry shows the current song playing, the number of users and DJs in the room, and a title which generally gives you an idea of the style of music being played inside.

The yellow circle with the number means that someone I’m friends with on Facebook is in that room.

The yellow circle with the number means that someone I’m friends with on Facebook is in that room.

When you enter a room, you’ll see the DJ table and a performance space that is very similar (though, slightly smaller and more crowded) to what you would see were you using the web app. Your fellow listeners will be packed in between the walls on your iPhone screen and the DJs up on stage. As with the web version of Turntable.fm, invite your friends to listen with you or to watch your set by sharing the venue via Twitter, Facebook or email by tapping the Share button in the upper right corner.

There are 200 people allowed in a room at one time. Any more than that is an illegal breach of the fire code.

There are 200 people allowed in a room at one time. Any more than that is an illegal breach of the fire code.

The iPhone app does a great job of translating the gamification that makes the web app so addicting. The meter at the bottom of the screen lets you give feedback on the currently playing track. An “Awesome” gives the DJ that chose the track a point, and a “Lame” makes that song one vote closer to being booed off the stage. If you choose to DJ, play awesome tracks so that your listeners will give you points and become your fan.

Spin crowd-pleasers to gain fans and rack up points you can spend on sweet avatars--like this bling-laden ape.

Spin crowd-pleasers to gain fans and rack up points you can spend on sweet avatars--like this bling-laden ape.

If you tap the speech bubble button next to the share button, the entire screen will flip around (Words With Friends-style) to reveal the chat interface where you can interact with other listeners in the room. Next to the chat button on the top bar, there is a Queue button, which shows you the queue of songs you’ve set up. These are the songs that will play when you finally get your shot at fame and step up to the DJ table.

Stick to the musical genre of the room, but blow them away with a great track and see what they think in the chat window.

Stick to the musical genre of the room, but blow them away with a great track and see what they think in the chat window.

The one major drawback to using Turntable.fm on your mobile device is the performance. It’s simply par for the course when dealing with streaming media (particularly when connected to the data network). It ultimately wasn’t too big of an issue — a few audio stutters here and there were minor annoyances as their worst — but your mileage may vary.

Turntable.fm for iPhone continues playing audio in the background when you switch to another app, or even put your phone on standby. This makes it great for getting the social music experience even when you’re surfing the web, walking to class or riding the train.

Potential Game Changer?

While cruising through some rooms on the service the other day, I came across a friend of mine who was setting up a room for an event the following night. He told me the creators of Turntable were going to be there, and that the event would use this room. I couldn’t get much more information out of him than that, but it did make me think about the possibilities that this service provides for live events.

Suppose you throw a party, or a dinner, or really any kind of event that might require some live music. Set up a room on Turntable.fm and connect it to your house sound system, and you’ve just created a way to crowdsource the music at the party. Since it’s more likely that your guests have their phones with them than their laptops, they can use the Turntable.fm iPhone app to connect to the room and take turns performing and contributing to the music of the event.

Not only does Turntable.fm get digital music back to the way that it should be with the group listening and performance aspects, but I think it also has the potential to blur the lines between music as an online activity and music in the real world.

Conclusion

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I can’t get enough of Turntable.fm. As I mentioned above, both the web app and the iPhone app remain US-only for now, but I do hope that our friends overseas get to experience the social music awesomeness that Turntable.fm has to offer very soon.

If you live in the US, I would highly suggest trying out this free service/app. It is terribly addicting and quite a bit of fun. What do you think about Turntable.fm?


Summary

An iPhone app for connecting to the increasingly popular social music service.

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