Turntable.fm

We finally got around to announcing our investment in Turntable.fm. I wrote this on the USV blog today:

Sometimes you end up loving something you don't want to.

When turntable.fm launched, I wanted to avoid it. There was the Facebook login button that I didn't want to use. There was another music service I didn't want to add to my already-exhaustive collection. And then there was the matter of Seth and Billy, who may have the distinction of getting more "no thanks" from me than any other pair of entrepreneurs in the world. Seth got the first one from me in 1996 I believe, and they got the most recent one from me less than a year ago.

But the service kept coming after me. It was showing up in my twitter stream, my facebook feed, my tumblr dashboard. My friends were on it and loving it. Our office was on it and loving it.

So one day in late June or early July, I finally hit that Facebook login and took a tour of turntable. What I found was people, lots of them, they were playing music, they were listening to music, they were talking to each other, they were dancing, they were having fun. And I was too. I was sold in about five minutes. I called up Seth and Billy and said "let's talk."

One of the worst kept secrets in startupland is that Union Square Ventures has led a round of financing for turntable.fm. We've been joined in this financing by Polaris, First Round and Chris Sacca and will also be joined by a collection of strategic angels who will close later this month. Billy has the news up on the turntable blog.

Billy Chasen is one of the most talented web entrepreneurs I've met. He makes software that looks different, feels different, and is different. His Chartbeat service is the most elegant and beautiful analytics product ever created. I've wanted to work with Billy for years. But we never found the right project to work together on. Now we have. I'm very excited about that.

Seth Goldstein is one of the first web entrepreneurs I ever met, back in NYC in the mid 90s. I've been his friend since, and we were colleagues at Flatiron where Seth built a killer mobile web portfolio a decade before its time. We both learned a lot from that. I've been trying to work with Seth again for a decade and now it has happened. A homecoming of sorts.

But the thing that has made all of this is possible is turntable.fm. I'm in the service now as I'm writing this, in my regular early morning hang, the indie while you work room. You'll find me there most mornings between 5am and 7am eastern. If you like to listen to indie music while you work, and if you are an early riser like me, maybe we can listen to some music together, chat about whatever, and maybe even jump on the stage and spin some tracks.

It is this form of socializing together across physical distance that makes the web special. As Dave Weinberger said,

On the Web, however, strangers are the source of everything worthwhile. Strangers and their utterances are the stuff of the Web. They are what give the Web its matter, its shape, its value.

Turntable is where strangers play music they love to each other, talk, and in time become friends. It happens to me most mornings and it is a special experience and I'd encourage you to experience it yourself.

#My Music#VC & Technology#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. David No√ęl

    (Reposting from the USV post):Congratulations! Good thing I don’t need to be an early riser to join you in a turntable room, bad thing I’m not able to access it ūüôā Let’s hope they can add non-US soon.

    1. testtest

      Proxy.

  2. Julien

    Nice investment! Music is definetely a sweet spot for USV!

  3. ErikSchwartz

    I’m stunned. Who could have guessed?Congrats.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      He really is transparent, eh? I can’t remember when I sort of figured it out, but this one definitely wasn’t hard. ūüėõ

      1. fredwilson

        i tried to cover my tracks

      2. markslater

        yep – shoe in.

  4. kirklove

    Congrats to the team. You’re an awesome VC and probably an even more awesome music curator/fan!¬†Very happy to see them doing so well.

  5. kirklove

    PS: I want to be invited to your home poker game. PLEASE!!! ūüėČ

    1. fredwilson

      my poker game is called venture capital

      1. steven germain

        So VC is 90% gambling and luck and 10% disciplined investing? I’d have thought you’d say VC is not a poker game.

        1. fredwilson

          I wrote a whole post on this a long time agohttp://www.avc.com/a_vc/200…

          1. kirklove

            Always liked that post/analogy.Bluffing is my favorite part of poker though. ūüėČ

          2. fredwilson

            telling is my favorite part ūüėČ

          3. steven germain

            I like your poker post but as you say, the poker analogy only goes so far. In poker the cards are objective – does not ¬†matter what table you are playing. In VC it is not so clear because the “cards” need to be interpreted. Is that really an Ace or is your view influenced by hope, bias, the overall market, current trends, models that slice the baloney too thin etc? There is a time to buy and a time to sell and nothing goes up forever. The tech world seems frothy ¬†– the space is crowded and the capture of revenue hampered by inevitable dilution due to low barriers to entry and a limit to consumer apetite and saturation. I think those conditions make the odds much worse than normal at this point in time (and I think this may be a new normal – it reminds me of the early days when grabbing eyeballs was the be all and end all). Take Twitter for example – it seems to be fading yet you interpret the results in a positive fashion. Maybe you are right but I think the results show it is withering on the vine (admittedly a giant vine) due to all of the above plus a silly conceit that everyone is as eloquent as FAKEGRIMLOCK.

          4. fredwilson

            i don’t see any signs that Twitter is fading. not with the people i follow, not with the developers who are building on it, and certainly not in any of the internal stats that i have seen

  6. Matt A. Myers

    “We’re very sorry, but while we would love to let you in and rock out with us, we need to currently restrict turntable access to only the United States due to licensing constraints.¬†“Big BOOOOOO from Canada.

    1. fredwilson

      it was open to the entire world before lawyers got involved

      1. Laurent Boncenne

        Availability in Europe and Canada needs to be priority number one from now on. I want in, I want in!!!Congratulations both to you and the turntable.fm crew, I’m listening to it from Paris thanks to TurntableBattle (comment above or under) and damn, i’m loving this!!!

        1. davduf

          Seriously, if network effects are as important for turntable.fm as I believe it should be (more so than any technical barrier, let’s say), that’s one major bug that needs fixing. Unless you’re happy with the college-university demographic, everyone that has graduated needs to play with their Canadian and overseas friends.That said… well done. This one is super exciting (or was… until lawyers took charge).

    2. TurntableBattle

      You can listen to TTFM outside the US using TTFMRadio http://ttb.fm/listen (it loads up a .m3u file to stream the music)

      1. ryancoleman

        you sir, are a hero.

    3. NICCAI

      Was great until we got locked out….YAISNAI (Yet Another Internet Service Not Available Internationally).

    4. Cameron

      Big boo from Australia too.

    5. PS3 Wireless Controller

      It think it will take years until this service is approved in most EU countries. Using a US proxy is a solution for now.

  7. RichardF

    1) Selfishly I hope they use the money to open the service up internationally.¬† I hate it when I can’t access a service people are raving about.2) What’s with the secret funding?¬† In this case thanks to Techcrunch for rebreaking a BI story.

    1. fredwilson

      unfortunately international is not just about money. it’s about time and energy because you have to get licensed in each geography one by one. uggggggh

      1. Jan Schultink

        Maybe this is a business opportunity for a service that goes through the hassle of sorting things out in all these countries, and charges content providers a fee for piggy backing on their basic framework (on top of which they can adjust things).I am not sure whether this is realistic, but there are hundreds of services now that have this problem, and it is almost becoming a higher-level issue now, touching on a person’s freedom to read/listen to/see what he/she wants. Someone needs to solve this problem for billions of people that lawyers created.

      2. Fernando Gutierrez

        But the biggest topic in the comments in that one… I understand that must be complex, but they should do it before someone else does.

        1. RichardF

          unfortunately they are probably better off lasering in on the US first seeing as it’s the largest homogeneous western market.

    2. markslater

      its on the verge of awsome richard. i am dying to see how they evolve.

      1. RichardF

        …looks like I’m going to have to proxy in and take a peep.

  8. Aaron Klein

    When your blog post wasn’t up at 5:30 when I got up, I said to myself “it’s probably turntable day.” :)Congrats!

    1. fredwilson

      wow, am i that predictable???

  9. Rohan

    ‘We’re very sorry, but while we would love to let you in and rock out with us, we need to currently restrict turntable access to only the United States due to licensing constraints.¬†We are working very hard to try and get you in as soon as possible.¬†If you believe this is a mistake and you are located in the United States, please e-mail help [at sign] turntable dot fm¬†Again, sorry, and we hope to see you soon.¬†Billy ChasenCEO’Hope this gets fixed soon then.

  10. David Petersen

    i love that the indie while you work dance floor is now full of avc readers and fred’s twitter followers.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah baby!

  11. EmilSt

    This service will make it big. Creating, sharing, enjoying wibe over net. Congratulations!

  12. LIAD

    Read a post on HN this morning by some kid outlining the detailed painstaking steps he took to hack turntable to get the kickass gorilla avatar.Testament to the social value they’ve already created.

    1. David No√ęl

      Ha, that’s awesome.

    2. Matt A. Myers

      Was it Fred?

    3. fredwilson

      i want that kickass gorilla avatar!

  13. awaldstein

    Congrats Fred.Music has always been a huge catalyst for community. Although the most vibrant contexts are not always the simplest to find the platform for connection. Turntable may have cracked the code on this one.Best of luck with this.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks

    2. Steve Poland

      Agreed, MySpace blew up from music and quite honestly Apple is the king now because of music: iPod -> Itunes (getting 100+ mm credit cards on file for 1-click purchases of music, eventually apps) -> AppStore. Music was the catalyst.

  14. Joe Lazarus

    I love Turntable.fm. I always assumed USV steered clear of music sites that are dependent on licences from the labels (as opposed to something like SoundCloud, which sells tools to artists & creators). Curious to hear how this one made the cut. Glad it did. 

    1. fredwilson

      i had never seen a business model i thought could generate high margins while paying licenses. subscriptions and advertising are low margin businesses once you have paid the royalties. as zynga has shown, virtual goods can generate a lot of money if done right. so my hope is that we can make a lot of money for labels and artists and make a lot of money for ourselves too.

      1. Joe Lazarus

        Cool. Virtual goods definitely seem like an interesting & natural direction to take the biz model.¬†I’d also love to see the Turntable “DJ” curation concept applied to categories outside of music. For example, a Turntable-like experience for online videos where people share clips in rooms organized around interests like “extreme sports”, “tech conferences” and “funny pet videos” would be a lot of fun… particularly when combined with AirPlay or some other way to watch from the sofa while using your phone as the remote & to chat about what you’re all watching.

        1. Matt A. Myers

          Google is attempting this idea with ‘Hangouts’ (I think they’re called) but they don’t really have a site focused for this, which they should have.

        2. Fernando Gutierrez

          For video you can try Chill.com. I haven’t used it much yet, but it looks quite similar to Turntable.fm, only for video. However, I don’t see much community or interaction yet.You nailed the name of the lounges, in the first couple of rows I see now ‘Techcrunch Disrupt’, ‘TED Videos’, ‘Extreme Sports’ and ‘Funny Videos’. There is also a ‘Hot Chicks’ and a lot of music.

          1. Joe Lazarus

            Chill.com looks interesting. Thanks for the tip, Fernando.

      2. steven germain

        That hope thing spells trouble from a business (and poker) perspective (IMHO).

        1. fredwilson

          we’ve made a lot of money on hope

          1. Stevengermain1

            But at the end of the day if 9 out of 10 money was made because u sold to a greater fool at some point the system will wise up and bubble burst.

    2. leigh

      free concert tickets!  

  15. Siminoff

    Congrats Fred!  I really think this one is going to do some amazing things from a business side and could really change the way new songs and bands make their way into the world.

    1. fredwilson

      i sure hope so

  16. matthughes

    I love the personal testimony of the service. Very compelling.

    1. fredwilson

      thanks

  17. William Mougayar

    Ditto on the boo for Canada access, thanks to the lawyers.¬†That aside, and Congrats aside, and the fact that it’s a very addictive and fun service aside,- how will it make money? Or are we getting the proverbial answer “it will get figured out later”?¬†

    1. fredwilson

      think zynga not pandora

    2. Laurent Boncenne

      Possibly premium accounts for teams and companies who would want to have their own set of private/public rooms,DJ’s who would want to have a pro status and possibly more features around mixing/queuing etc…And obviously premium accounts for brands (think Coca Cola branded rooms for a special event or launch, or even a brand’s playlist with special dj’s for instance)Of course once you have enough traction to get brands on board, that leaves room for advertising opportunities given that turntable.fm is more than just a music player (given that it has a lot of game mechanics and a chatroom system, meaning there’s much more incentive for a standard user to actually be on the site…), there’s an opportunity to advertise for indie bands/dj’s and of course for brands to push their products on their own page (taking Coca Cola as an example again, knowing how they have close ties to music, it would actually make sense to use something like turntable.fm as a branding channel, more brand visibility etc…)assuming they have 240k uniques (taken from doubleClick Ad Planner)¬†and knowing about 4000 users have the gorilla avatar (I’ve never used turntable either tho), if they’d have pro accounts for DJ’s and bands for instance (basically letting them show more info about themselves and broadcast more than just their music) and premium accounts for teams and companies charging 5$/months for it, and those 4000 would be willing to pay (believable, dribbble is doing something similar i gather),well, you get the idea… =)I could go into more details about how I see the whole thing and various monetization channels but that would be to long for a comment…

      1. Matt A. Myers

        A Like for you, sir.

    3. Matt A. Myers

      The easiest one would be force ad-clips inbetween songs..

    4. leigh

      blah blah blah –¬†restrictive¬†Canadian access – blah blah blah¬†argh. ¬†

  18. ShanaC

    Well, congrats.

  19. RacerRick

    I assumed that you had invested.  Funny.

    1. fredwilson

      we had, this is old news actually

  20. Dan

    Wow. Just found out that Chartbeat really is freaking awesome. Thanks for that little gem.

  21. Donna Brewington White

    Puts a new spin on “active listening”.Very fun, Fred. ¬†You are a great example to us all of someone who truly has fun with his work.Spent a few minutes on turntable.fm and I get it. ¬†Hard to turn it off.Congratulations! ¬†Way to be there — on the cutting edge, that is. Also, pretty excited about the Wattpad investment — LOVE the concept. ¬†Now THAT’s disruptive.

    1. fredwilson

      yes, wattpad is more disruptive than turntablebut i think the intersection of virtual goods, social gaming, and music has the potential to lead the music industry in some new and good directions

  22. Donna Brewington White

    P.S.  Thanks for the warning about the FB log in. That was hard to get past.

  23. Eric Tarn

    Our entire company was addicted to Turntable for DAYS! We had tons of fun forming alliances and negotiating with each other to try prevent terrible songs (Celine Dion, Cotton Eye Joe, Lion King Theme) from being lamed off in order to torture everybody. We had a friend in California who would constantly harass us during weird hours to sign on so he can get a DJ spot in our room (its very hard to get a DJ spot in a public room). We’d try to see how many consecutive times we can play Rebecca Black without a room of people wearing headphones cracking up. We even got to shoot the shit with TonyEm and figured out who this mysterious guy with the fancy avatar was, but then one day…..it all stopped! Everybody went back to work and got bored of Turntable. I think its because we all ran out of songs that we knew to play and because of our “creator” personalities we had no interest in sitting in a random room, never having a shot at DJ’ing, and getting frustrated at the choice of songs without being able to control it.

    1. fredwilson

      ah, they are working on solving the “have no shot at DJing” issue. i will post again when they have that feature out

      1. Eric Tarn

        In the big public rooms, I always found myself wishing I could suggest a song to be played next and let it be put up for a vote by the room.¬† I would always think things like, “SHEESH NOT THIS OWL CITY CRAP, PLAY THE POSTAL SERVICE INSTEAD!”

      2. SeanScott007

        What if I dont have a facebook? ¬† Nor want one currently.¬†I have no reason to make¬†meaninglessness¬†textual updates people over the internet.¬†If I want to tell a friend something, I call or text. ¬†Many have no need for facebook. ¬†Why not a “guest” feature. ¬†Maybe I want to “blind date” with music friends.¬†————–Wow. ¬†Sign in with facebook? ¬†Thats just¬†reinforcing¬†facebook, if you ask me.¬†Back to crappy pandora, I guess. ¬†until they think of “guest” or a way to do it, without facebook.¬†

        1. fredwilson

          i’ve been making that point since before i talked to billy and set about this. note my point about that in my post

      3. Guest

        Sorry, Missed your facebook point.   I was reading (skimming) you on my ipad and missed it the first time. ThanksGood luck Fred. Who am I, but to me,seems like just another product that seems like it has workarounds from the start.    This is why it took you 5 months and would take other people as long also.   Its not your fault. 

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      I’ve had a lot of fun and DJing in smaller public rooms with few people around. In fact some of the best sessions have been with just two/three more DJs. The problem is finding those rooms. More filters would be great.

      1. fredwilson

        you will like the next thing billy launches. the ios app had to get out first.

  24. Carl J. Mistlebauer

    I loved turntable.fm since the first time I stumbled upon it! ¬†Being in the screen printing business I realize that the most successful brands of all time started from music and evolved into lifestyles. ¬†Since my perspective is always, “…oh, what can this new thing do for me?” ¬†I think turntable.fm ¬†is probably the biggest game changer in my business, and ranks right up there with QR codes, mobile aps, Pop Up Shops, and games as technology that can fundamentally change retail.I have always wanted to develop lines of art that reflected particular genre’s of music, particularly the 60’s and psychedelic rock and with a DJ I can do it and promote it. ¬†

    1. fredwilson

      i sure hope you are right

    2. Dave W Baldwin

      Run with it!

  25. sigmaalgebra

    Well clearly not really “already-exhaustive” but likely already-exhausting!¬† :-)!

    1. fredwilson

      true

  26. JamesHRH

    Don’t like to listen while I work but would love to see the turntable experience.Too bad someone cannot get labels to agree to internet service licensing clearinghouse.Will have to sign in the next time I am in the USofA.Dave W quote is not for me; I like Marc Andreesen’s ‘eating all industries whole’ better!

  27. Andrew

    I’ve always been curious about sharing licenses/licensing licenses. For example, Rdio is in Canada. Can it integrate with something like Turntable.fm for Rdio subscribers?Can turntable.fm integrate Spotify into it’s track search and stream from Spotify to other Turntable listeners?Outloud.fm is a group listening service and you can stream from Soundcloud. Is that something that could be in Turntable’s future, allowing at least some tracks for international users?

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      Right now, somewhere deep in the office of a law firm, there is a lawyer smiling about the fees he’ll collect for complex agreements if someone is brave enough to implement your cross service ideas (amazing, btw!).

  28. Melodyvonrock

    doesn’t work in Australiaand I boycott Farcebook so no access for me. But there are others that do and agree, if you get the right people in the room it becomes addictive

  29. DannyWitters

    Congratulations Fred. Turntable.fm sounds like a game changer. Creating a site for social interactions through music is genius. What are your views on video? I think there’s a bigger market in bringing a somewhat similar, but different, idea to video. smivi.com focuses on bringing video search and social together. We currently have a prototype of our search and are working on the social layer. Let me know if this is something you/usv would potentially be interested in.

    1. fredwilson

      the thing about audio is you can put it up in a tab and move on while staying engagedvideo doesn’t really support that use case

      1. DannyWitters

        I agree. But don’t you think there is place for a different type of social interface to exist in video. Whether you’re watching an episode of a tv show, or an interview with a public figure, or a sports video, to be able to do that and at the same time have the ability to do so with your online social community?

        1. fredwilson

          Yes I do but it won’t feel like turntable. It will be totally different

          1. DannyWitters

            Yea i agree completely, video is a completely different animal. I was just trying to get at that there is such a need for online video. I’m working on this for http://www.smivi.com, can i send you an e-mail with some more information?

  30. Robert Thuston

    Hey, I don’t have the patience ¬†for last.fm and turntable. ¬†I go to fm and it peeves me I can’t immediately figure out what I need to do. ¬†Turntable is similar… though i did figure it out after hitting the lame button like 30 times in a row in the 80s room… and then typing “lame” into the feed. ¬†And someone telling me… “hey, check the rules”It seemed pretty cool while I was in there… I find myself continuing to check this stuff out because you put some weight on it… but I’m not sold yet…

  31. hikosaemon

    I was one of the many non-US users who got quickly hooked on this site. The way the site became a way for users outside Japan to listen to and get hooked on Japanese music and vice versa was amazing. There were large facebook groups for it, it became very popular very quickly here.¬†Until of course it got blocked – as someone injecting capital into the company, I can tell you that Turntable has the same potential for growth in most developed country markets as it does in the US, and so I hope there is an agenda to similarly acquire music rights in other jurisdictions to allow the platform to roll out more broadly.¬†It’s one direction that I hope they use some of their new capital.¬†

    1. fredwilson

      yes, most certainly. the only issue is international licensing takes time because there is no global deal. we have to make deals region by region

  32. Bill

    Fred,¬†Could you please share what a normal day and a normal week look like from an hours perspective?In your post you mention working from 5-7am Eastern, and then I’m assuming you eat and head to the office.I would be interested to understand how you manage your time, what hours you work and what tips, if any, you have for making time for work and family. Reflecting on how this has changed over time during different life changes would be interesting as well.I have recently experimented with working earlier in the morning, before my housemates and workmates are awake and generally find it to be really productive.Thanks!

    1. fredwilson

      work from 5-7, exercise from 7-8, eat breakfast with my family or do a business breakfast, in the office between 9 and 9:30, meetings all day, including lunch meetings. i usually head home around 7pm. dinner with the family or a few times a week we go out. in bed between 10 and 11

      1. Bill

        Thanks!

  33. Philip Boyle

    Yet again local copyright and licencing gets in the way of what should be a great global service. When will the music industry (along with the television and film industries) wake up and solve this problem?I used Turntable.fm briefly before it locked out international users and I really liked what I saw. Congratulations on the investment Fred.Here’s hoping the licencing issues are worked out soon, but I won’t hold my breath. I’m still waiting to for Spotify to be available in Ireland!

  34. Tracey Jackson

    I have been taking many cues from you Fred. I just signed up and it looks fun.I have sent the link to my kids as I think I may still spend more time on Spotify.Out of curiosity how does ASCSP deal with all these sites? Do they support them?I will say Chartbeat is my favorite traffic tracking site I use for my blog.

    1. fredwilson

      Turntable is cutting deals with all the license holders right now

  35. Ryan Stephens

    So glad to hear that USV has invested in Turntable. I’ve been a huge fan since their launch, and love exposing people to “Texas Country” or “Red Dirt Country” songs they’ve never heard before.¬† You might have to mix it up on morning and let me treat you to some Jaryd Lane “Baton Rouge” or any number of amazing Sean McConnell tracks.I’ll add, it’s a great place for hearing new music to add to all your other music profiles.

  36. Nate Quigley

    I’ve been loving Turntable for discovery. I’m not nearly cool enough to find great new music on my own. Used to have to rely on my 16yr old and his friends. I find myself hearing something on Turntable and then looking it up on Spotify and following the thread from there again. Last few months have been best music months for me in a long time. Would love to see a Spotify – Turntable tie up down the road. Turntable is the new radio and Spotify is the new CD collection. Love them both.

  37. Justsayin

    Rock it out

  38. Don Zurbrick

    Great pick. Recently discovered Turntable.FM and cant turn it off. Glad to see an iPhone app launch.

  39. Dan Epstein

    Tried Turntable.fm for the first time today. ¬†Very cool. ¬†Not sure why I waited so long. ¬†I can see myself spending a lot of time there instead of on rdio, spotfiy, or pandora. ¬†The social aspect is fun.I haven’t played around with it enough to know, but some folks in my room were bitching about being kicked off frequently, or being unable to play tunes.Next I need to dig around and see what TT offers in terms of helping users find rooms they’ll like.

    1. fredwilson

      anyone trying to use it on a weak connection or internationally via a proxy is going to have issues unfortunately

  40. Jlb293

    As I type this, Turntable is down.Which it often is.I can’t think of a website that has more bugs/server issues. It’s astounding.¬†It’s a great concept, but Jesus is it buggy. That’s pretty much the biggest topic of conversation on the site and the administrators seem to have nothing to say about it.

    1. fredwilson

      i haven’t experienced it being totally downbut i have experienced the bugs

  41. fredwilson

    i had the same reaction, as i mentioned