Turntable 101: For Musicians

By July 16, 2011Blog
Olga Nunes is a singer and songwriter. Now that you’re here, why don’t you check out a music video of one of Olga’s songs? It’s here: A Dream of Gardens. (It has lyrics by Neil Gaiman. It was directed by Team Genius.) You can download this song for free over on the music page, along with songs funded by the Kickstarter-funded LAMP album. Thanks for stopping by!

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You may have heard by now of a little site called Turntable.fm. It’s a site that lets you DJ your music picks to rooms full of avatars, and is ridiculously addictive. I’ve discovered a ton of great new music through the site, and have had fun sharing songs with rooms of strangers.

As a musician, however, the fascination around Turntable is centered on how it’s actually an amazing new tool for artists to share their work with fans, and to connect with new fans in the process.

I’ve been on the site since a couple weeks after it launched, and I sold music very early on simply by playing my own tracks in a room. I’ve gone on to run listening parties both for a local festival, and for other artists— the latter helping to launch an album to the top-selling position on Bandcamp.

Turntable is taking off, especially as a new medium for artists to intimately share their work.  In recent weeks, I’ve seen artists ranging from Sir Mix-A-Lot to ?uestlove, Manchester Orchestra to Ra Ra Riot run listening party rooms to great effect– where I usually stick around to answer helpful questions about the site’s inner workings.

In light of that, I wanted to throw together a few helpful tips for musicians starting out on Turntable: 

1. First: the basics.

You get a Turntable account by having a friend on Facebook who has access– it’s spreading pretty quickly, so the chances of that are high. Once you’re in, check out the FAQ, and this CNN article for tips on etiquette. Turntable is dead simple to use, but it doesn’t hurt to get an overview first.

2. Join the community!

If you’re a new user in a room on Turntable, start conversations, and engage people. Don’t come in and start posting links to your music in chat without getting a feel for what people like first– especially if you don’t already have a large fan base.

3. Let people know upfront you’re playing your own music.

If you’re joining an existing room, people tend to be more receptive and more willing to hear you out if the music you’re spinning is your own. Get a DJ seat, get comfortable, and set the stage for what you’re about to play.

4. Give away free music.

Have the track you play in Turntable available as a free download, either on your website or some place like Bandcamp –preferably in exchange for an email address. When you play your song and people respond positively, mention that the song can be downloaded for free, and give them the link. If you’re lucky, they’ll add your songs to their Turntable playlist, and spin your music on the site when you’re not around.

5. Have thick skin.

Playing your music in a Turntable room– especially a big one– is not like playing a gig. It’s more a cross between playing a gig, and reading a page full of YouTube comments. People are more or less anonymous, so sometimes the criticism can rain down. Expect that people will be honest, and be kind and receptive in return. It will work in your favor for the people in the room who DO like your music.

6. Have listening parties.

If you already have a good-sized, receptive fan base, create a room just for your music with as many DJ seats as there are members of your band– and then send out a message on Twitter that you’re DJing in a room. Turntable is more or less instant-gratification, so you don’t need to announce in advance– and additionally, the current room cap is 200, so rooms fill up pretty quickly. I’ve seen rooms with Sir Mix-A-Lot or Talib Kweli get flooded to capacity within minutes from a single tweet. While this may seem bad, it kind of works in your favor– having an intimate 200-person party with your fans lets them feel like they’re insiders, and you’ll be able to carry on more meaningful conversations about your music, as well as let them get to know you.

7. Play songs you’re comfortable sharing online.

While it’s a good idea to play new (or unreleased!) songs for your fans, be aware that currently, uploading songs to Turntable keeps the songs in the system for other users to add to their playlists. While this is a benefit– being able to upload your own tracks that are not in the Turntable database– be sure to only share songs you’re comfortable with people playing when you’re not around.

8. Check your stats.

 You can keep up with how many people are playing your songs with a nifty third-party site called TTDashboard created by Alain Gilbert. For example, clicking on a song in Turntable can tell you how many points it received in which room, and who played it. Points are the currency of Turntable, given when someone clicks “Awesome” on a played song– and a strong measure of how people are reacting to your music at any given time.

9. Have fun.
Turntable, ultimately, is about sharing music you love with people who love music. Don’t just share your own work, but share songs by other artists that move you as well. It’ll make for a more exciting experience for everyone, and allow people to connect with what we’re all here for anyway: the music.

I’m excited to see where Turntable might go next. Before the first large artist hit Turntable, I sketched out an idea of what their growth might look like— and since then I’ve seen only more and more interest around it, while artists large and small flock to the site. I can only imagine that it’s going to get bigger, more exciting, and more useful to artists as a way to connect with people.

FOOTNOTE: I’ve recently discovered that you can add your own music to Turntable’s native database by submitting it to Tunecore. Simply upload your album or single, and then select “MediaNet” as a vendor, and your music should be searchable within the Turntable database within a week or two!

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