Marketing your music can be a royal pain when it entails answering misspelled emails from your one true fan and tweeting about your upcoming tour. Well, imagine if you could raise awareness about your band just by playing music. Musicians of the world, allow me to introduce you to Turntable.fm.
Turntable.fm is a startup that's already managed to accrue more buzz than that band you hate — you know, the one that stole your sound and is now going on tour while you're stuck at home, reading things (like this) on the Internet.
Turntable.fm is basically akin to AOL chatrooms of old — with music. Right now, it's invite-only (and U.S.-only), but if you have a friend on Facebook who's already using it (you likely do), you'll be able to get access. Around 300,000 people already have.
Once you have an account locked and loaded, you can start checking out DJ rooms (and creating them, but we'll get to that later), where users take turns manning the decks and spinning songs via MediaNet or by uploading MP3s. Other users rate music as"awesome"or"lame,"which garners a DJ points and, consequently, access to cooler avatars.
Sound fun? It is. — and about as addictive as chocolate-covered, deep-fried crack cocaine. And while it's totally OK to mess around with the service as a casual user, we think there's a huge opportunity here for bands to promote their own music while having that aforementioned fun.
Interact — Really Interact — With Your Fans
Yes, Facebook and Twitter make it extremely easy to talk to your fans, but there's also a lag-time when it comes to answers. It's not a true dialogue — you know, the kind you're privy to when that one true fan corners you at the merch table. Turntable.fm lets you have a real-time dialogue with fans, without having to deal with them IRL. Also, Turntable has yet to add any kind of messaging system, so users can only contact you when you're in the same room — unless you provide said info in your profile. You log in via Facebook, but no one has access to your account.
The band Manchester Orchestra recently held court in their own Turntable room, and reaped the benefits of fan interaction."We were able to have a steady dialogue with our fans without having to set up an elaborate Q&A format,"says lead singer Andy Hull."Our entire band set up shop in my living room and ended up DJing for four hours. Hopefully it made our fans feel cool they could interact with us so easily."
Although you're aiming to connect with your own fans, we don't suggest only streaming your own jams. Play songs that you like, and let fans jump on the decks as a way to open up an even more lively dialogue with your fanbase.
"We love playing records for other people, so this felt like the perfect opportunity to make our fans listen to 'Mo Money Mo Problems' by the Notorious B.I.G.,"says Hull.
That being said, Turntable.fm is also a great place to get feedback on your new, or previously unreleased music. Diplo quite famously dropped into a Turntable.fm room and started spinning some new Major Lazer tracks recently, and the audience's reaction was quite mixed, to say the least. Some people were enjoying the show, according to a story by blogger Paul Miller, but a ton of users were booing him as well.
Still, it looks like Diplo is strong enough to take a hit now and then. Instead of fleeing from the forum, Diplo's record label, Mad Decent, launched its own Turntable.fm room, and started playing unreleased music from its artists for the digital masses.
"feels like we are in a proper club — except I can read what kids think,"Diplo told us."In a club, it's only noise. Funny that it gives kids a way to tell me how they feel about tracks."
Have a Listening Party
Premiering a new album on a blog or website (or Facebook) is a great way to get the word out, but giving fans a peek at your new disc via Turntable.fm is both engaging and viral.
Simply choose a time for your listening party, load up the decks with band members (and your friends and management, if your band is small) and queue up your new disc. (You'll have to alternate your jams with music from other bands, though, because due to DMCA rules, Turntable cannot play more than three songs from one album or four songs from one artist in a three hour period.)
Fans can offer you instant feedback, and — this is the cool part — help their favorite songs go viral. You see, along with allowing users to buy tracks that they dig, Turntable.fm also lets DJs add tracks to their own personal playlist.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa,"you might be thinking,"Doesn't that mean that people will be stealing my jams?"While it might seem safer to premiere your album via a streamable embed (that doesn't allow downloads), letting people add songs to their playlists is basically the same thing — with added sharing capabilities.
When someone adds a track to their playlist, they are not downloading it to their desktops. (Sure, someone will probably figure out how to rip your music from TT, but that's nothing new, and they can do the same from a stream.) They can only listen to that song within Turntable, and can only listen to the full song when other DJs are in the room. So when they're playing your song, they're playing it for an audience — an audience who might not have previously been aware of your music, and would therefore not attend a listening party.
DJs from the original listening party henceforth become a kind of digital street team, turning other users onto your new album, and, quite possibly, convincing them to buy it (or steal it and see you in concert).
Drive More Traffic to Social Channels
Since you connect to Turntable.fm via your Facebook account, whatever name you go by on Facebook will be your DJ name. Unless you're a singer-songwriter, we suggest changing your name to that of your band, as well as including all your social networks in your profile.
To change your name, just go to"settings"while in a DJ room, and you'll be able to change your display name, add your Twitter handle, Facebook and website. That way, people who might not be familiar with your music will be able to find — and"Like"and follow — you.
Alex Brown — a.k.a. Paper Diamond — has been spending a lot of time in Turntable of late, with fruitful results."I could see a direct click over from people onto my Facebook and Twitter any time I would play a track,"he says."Such a great response got me more and more interested in the site."
Tips & Tricks
If you're an unknown band, start building up your cache before you launch your own DJ room, amassing fans and points. When someone"fans"you, they are notified every time you start DJing. Make sure to get the most out of those notifications.
Connect with influencers. There's a handy dashboard that will tell you who are currently the top users on Turntable.fm. Check out their rooms, see which ones fit your vibe, and wait patiently for a chance to DJ. Either that, or connect with them over one of their available social networks and explain your deal.
Paper Diamond found his niche in a room hosted by DJ Wooooo, one of the most popular users."Lots of my fans were already in the room,"he says."It made it fun for me to be able to get up and DJ and play new songs or even unfinished songs for up to 200 people at any given time per day."
When you enter a new room, get an idea of the vibe by pulling down the"Room Info"tab. It will give you a history of what tracks have been played, and how users have rated them.
When you upload your tracks, convert everything to MP3s. M4As — the format most songs from iTunes come in — will not upload to Turntable.fm. Neither will WAVs. To convert those to MP3s, go to iTunes/Preferences/General/Import Settings/ and switch to"import using MP3 encoder."Highlight the track you want, and go to Advanced/Create MP3 version.
Try the Chrome Extension to keep better tabs on a room. The extension adds desktop notifications (when DJs leave or new people enter the room), suggested tracks, Last.fm scrobbling, etc. (Thanks to Russ Marshalek from Flavorpill for this tip.)
Images courtesy of Flickr, pinguino, Arjen Toet, Ferrari + caballos + fuerza = cerebro Humano