Turntable.fm is a fun way to listen to music online with other people, but it’s not really available in Australia. If you can get it working with a VPN, here’s how and why you should use it.
So Wait, What Is It?
Turntable is a musical chat room. You like talking to your friends. You like playing your favourite songs. You like hearing good songs you didn’t pick. Turntable puts all of these nice things into one cartoonish online dance floor. Five DJs at a time queue up tracks of their choosing, while everyone else sits back and enjoys. Or doesn’t enjoy! If a dud comes on, the audience can vote it off the speakers with enough dislike clicks. Or if a DJ’s playing good stuff, you can reward them with likes, which translate into points, which are worn around as a badge of distinguished taste.
Simple enough, right? Well, like anything else on the internet, when you put a bunch of people into a small space and expect them to all get along perfectly, there will be bumps. But it doesn’t have to be bad! In fact, Turntable makes it pretty easy for everyone to live and listen together in peace, so long as you stick to some decent ground rules.
Consider Going Private
Turntable offers the option to make either a private room that won’t be listed in their directory (and is accessible only via a particular URL), or to open your party hut to the listening public.
If all you want is to listen to music with some officemates, friends, or other intimate avatars, you might be best served by keeping the door closed. A private room means not having to deal with strangers. No “Hey, you took my DJ spot” or “Why does this guy keep playing Enya” moments. (Side note: I love Enya, so that guy is probably me).
Don’t Cut In Line
The DJ booth slots are the most coveted pieces of real estate in Turntable. Just like in real life, everyone loves DJs, and they shower the audience with their inexhaustible coolness and playlist dominion. Everyone wants to be the DJ. But there are only five DJ spots. And it’s first come, first serve. So this can be problematic! Some Turntable communities are well-moderated, and have a functioning list to make things more fair, and to prevent DJ monopolies.
When you arrive in a new room, ask if there’s a system. If so, abide by it. Turntable, despite all the snobbery (FLEET FOXES AGAIN?) is about enjoying music with other people. So don’t be a sociopath and snipe a DJ seat if an opening appears. It may sound utopian, and maybe a little naive, but damnit, we can make this work if we suppress our natural internet tendency for absolute selfishness for only a brief moment.
Don’t Troll the Playlist
Now this is a tricky one, because it’s enveloped so deeply in our own personal tastes. But basically, don’t play songs you know will annoy people. It’s ironically funny to play Who Let the Dogs Out, once, even if you know it’s going to be booed off the queue within seconds. But using your DJ powers to force trash songs on your audience is obnoxious. The same goes for equally asinine choices like static, podcasts, presidential addresses, and the like. Corny songs are funny in moderation, but don’t use Turntable as a means of pranking strangers.
Don’t Downvote to Get Your Turn
Patience is tough! Especially when you’ve got that MP3 banger at the top of your queue, and can’t wait for everyone to tell you how great it is. Maybe you should just downvote the guy next to you?
No. This is just basic internet Don’t Be a Dick stuff. If the system is ever going to work, it has to be universal. If everyone skips everyone to get to their turn, nobody will ever play and music. The entire experiment will collapse under the weight of pure web ego. So just wait.
Don’t Get Too Absorbed
Turntable is charming to a fault. But it can dig its sonic claws into you pretty deeply, and once you’re grabbed, your homework, job, or hungry child might not seem like a priority. So again: moderation. It’s fine to duck in and chit chat for a bit, but trying to be the dance king of Club Turntable is a surefire way to get nothing done that day. Also, the bobbing cartoon character disco bonanza aesthetic doesn’t really play well with boss looking over your shoulder moments.
So play wisely. Listen wisely. Be nice. If you don’t like a song, vote it down or leave. Turntable is one of the few places online where people going out of their way to be horrible to one another seems to be the exception rather than the rule. If you consider yourself a good Turntable citizen, head on over to the Gizmodo 24/7 X-Treme Party Zone 3000 – just be ready for a lot of Enya and Hoobastank.