This is going to be one of those multitasking posts, since I’m also attempting to DJ and watch Djokovic cruise to yet another Wimbledon final… Are you sitting at work right now listening to Spotify, Pandora, or Songza for your daily music fix? Well guess what? I have something even better. Sure, Spotify is the bee’s knees because of it’s ability to share playlists, as well as what you’re jamming out to, but imagine if you could take Spotify to another level. Imagine creating a set list of songs in a genre of your choice with four other people all for an audience of other digital listeners. Spotify was the next step up from Pandora, but if you want a truly social music experience, you need to check out turntable.fm. Coincidentally, it just went down as I was writing this post, but thankfully they put up adorable kitten videos on their homepage as they sort out any bugs. They also use Amazon Web Services, and went down along with Instagram and Pinterest after those storms took out the AWS Virginia server, so they might still be recovering.
Turntable.fm, founded in May 2011 by Billy Chasen and Seth Goldstein (previously of StickyBits startup fame), allows you to get on stage with anywhere from one to four other digital DJs and play songs from your playlist in thousands of different rooms for up to 200 listeners at a time. Rooms cover the gamut of genres, and you can find one playing anything from Indie to JPop to movie soundtracks. Other listeners can give you e-props for your spins by either “Awesoming” or “Laming” your song. Awesomes grant you a DJ Point, which unlock cooler avatars at various point thresholds. Turntable provides a huge database of music for you to meticulously craft your playlist from, or if you can’t find what you’re looking for, you can upload tracks from your computer. As far as I know you can have thousands of songs in your queue at once. Love a song so much you want to download it, or add it to your own song queue? Turntable gives you the option to buy the song on Amazon or iTunes (lol.), or add it to your turntable, Spotify, Rdio, or Last.fm. Awesome, right?
I’ve been faithfully using turntable.fm since last June when I first heard about it, so DJ Coug is a pretty big deal as far as digital DJs go. Despite being over a year old, and launching both iOS and Android app versions of the site, it’s technically still in beta phase. You can’t create an account without linking it to your Facebook or Twitter, but over the past year they’ve been able to iron out a lot of issues that could make DJing pretty frustrating at times. It’s really apparent that the iPhone app, which released last September, had an enormous amount of love put into it and after a few updates, I’d have to say it looks amazing and operates nearly as effortlessly as the web version. Turntable also released an Android version earlier this year.
What if you can’t find a room you like? What if you want to play some Swedish Death Metal and everyone keeps laming your Opeth tracks in the normal metal rooms!? All you have to do is create your own room. Name it whatever you want, set some simple rules, and you’ll have it up and running in a matter of seconds. Turntable also gives you the option to share where and what you’re DJing on Facebook and Twitter, so all your pals can come DJ with you! I was having a similar issue last summer when I was DJing mostly in Rap & Hip-Hop rooms. Every time I tried to play a more popular rap song from the last five years, I’d get booed off the stage (if your song dips below a certain Lame/Awesome percentage, you’ll get skipped). What I’ve found is that a lot of turntable users (especially Hip-Hop fans) tend to be obnoxiously snobbish. “Oh you’re not playing Gang Starr or Jedi Mind Tricks? Ugh. Get off the stage!” I said to hell with Rap & Hip-Hop snobs and created my own room, where I can be free to play 2 Chainz, Young Jeezy, G-Unit, or even OJ Da Juiceman (AYE! OKAY!) with the full support of all my adoring fans.
So since last June, I’ve been spending most of my turntable time DJing in my own room, “Rap While You Work – Coug Lounge“, the name of which is a play on one of the more popular rooms “Indie While You Work”. Over that time I’ve accumulated almost 6,000 DJ Points (only 4,000 more DJ Points til the space monkey!) and 250 fans, who are people that track which room you’re in, and when you start DJing. Since last year I’ve been able to craft my own brand of room, focusing on playing mostly new, popular, and Dirty South rap, which is often shunned in the more popular Hip-Hop rooms. Last summer, there were times when my room would have nearly 50 listeners during work hours, but since I took a short hiatus over the winter, the room lost a majority of it’s fan base. Recently I’ve noticed that a lot of rooms are imposing awful new rules that go against what turntable.fm is all about. Some rooms enforce strict “No Laming” rules, or ones that force all DJs on the stage to awesome every song. Not in the Coug Lounge. The lame button is there for a reason, and if the room isn’t feeling a specific song, let the DJ know about it! Over the past few months, mostly during my job search, I’ve made a serious effort to resurrect the room. This has been difficult, since a lot of last year’s daily listeners have stopped using turntable. A handful have come back, and a lot of new fans have surfaced. Plus I’ve tried to make my room into a real community, adding a “bot” (CougBot) to moderate the room and keep a DJ queue, and a Facebook page to keep fans abreast of turntable news, new music from artists we typically play, and the room’s status. It’s actually been pretty successful, and thanks to some dedicated moderators and friends (MikeJules & BlowinStankE shout out!), the room gets up and running even when I’m not there.
However, I don’t know if it’s the type of fan that typically listens to rap music, or the addition of a lot of listeners on iPhone and Android apps (which makes reading welcome messages, room rules, understanding a DJ queue, and maintaining a consistent connection much more difficult), but a lot of people have an extremely hard time using the queue or bot commands. Additionally, a lot of listeners don’t have any patience to wait a song or two to DJ, or will only stick around for one of their own plays. This is much different than it was last summer. Plus, with the addition of services like BotCavalry, and Google Chrome plug-ins like TT+, people can create and run their own rooms with ease. I’ve noticed that this causes a lot of more reliable room listeners to go off on their own to create similar rooms. This not only causes the Coug Lounge to lose a reliable listener/moderator, but it splits potential listeners into several much smaller Rap & Hip-Hop rooms.
So if you’re using Spotify/Pandora/Songza at work, I encourage you to check out turntable.fm. And if DJing takes up too much of your attention during the daily grind, find a room that plays awesome music and just chill in the crowd! But if Rap & Hip-Hop is your scene, please check out Rap While You Work | Coug Lounge or like the Facebook page! Who knows, you might discover some swelly new music, collect some DJ Points, or even get discovered as the next great DJ. So until next time, keep your top let back and your beat down low. DJ Coug out.