The promoters of this year’s Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin, Texas, didn’t first turn to Twitter or Facebook or even radio to announce that Odd Future, Passion Pit, and the Misfits (reunion!) would headline the popular concert in 2011. They holed up in a virtual room on Turntable.fm and let the needle drop.
The social music startup enables users to listen, socialize, and share (or “DJ”) music through a Facebook portal. And it’s growing fast. After one month in the wild, it surpassed 140,000 users; it’s raised $7.5 million at a $37.5 million valuation; and it’s received praise and interest from Fred Wilson and Kleiner Perkins. But beyond a service simply for entertainment–the platform lets users create avatars and join “rooms” to listen to and chat about music–some are beginning to see Turntable.fm as a powerful promotional tool for artists, songs, and concerts.
“You can do a ton with Turntable–I think it’s a superior concept,” says James Moody, co-founder of Transmission Entertainment which puts on Fun Fun Fun Fest who has worked with acts including MGMT, the Hold Steady, GZA, and Yeasayer. The concert typically receives press from music rags such as Billboard, Rolling Stone, and Spin.
Exclusively on Turntable, Transmission plans to play song after song by the artists on this year’s roster to fans and press in the Fun Fun Fun Fest “room.” Bookers of the artists will be DJing the songs, ready to chat with fans and media about the music, the reunions, and other details of the concert. “For us, it’s a two-way press release, instead of it being a one-way poster,” Moody says–in the past, Transmission would release the lineup to press via traditional (see: boring) means, such as a press release. “We’re creating a more emotional experience that you can’t get from a PDF.”
Moody expects the release to create a social experience, with fans chatting–with each other, with the concert organizers, and with the press–and sharing their thoughts on social media. Tons of tweets are already linking to the listening room and live blogs. “Last night, I went into the [listening] room at one in the morning, and there were already like 15 squatters in our room, which to me is the equivalent of people waiting live outside a club the day before the concert,” Moody says.
While Moody expects as many as a couple thousand listeners could join the room, he acknowledges how young Turntable is, and how much room it has to grow. “The guys at Turntable are just under water with their new investment,” he says. “The funny thing is that [Turntable.fm cofounder] Seth [Goldstein] was like, ‘Just please don’t melt our system down.'”
Server-crashing traffic is always a sign of growth–it’s one of the reasons why Moody turned to Turntable to promote the Fun Fun Fun Fest. But Moody doesn’t see the service limited to the one-off concert. He sees the startup as an interactive, digital version of the much antiquated listening party.
“Imagine if Arcade Fire decided it wanted to reveal its songs only on Turntable,” Moody says. “You experience the songs with the artist, and then ask questions in the chat room. The combination of music and conversation and the ability to buy the music–no one else has that. It’s great.”