“It’s Like You’re Actually There!”

How many times have you heard that before? There’s certainly a focus in contemporary electronics on creating an illusion of proximity. And, as far as music is concerned, it makes sense – few things are more special than seeing an artist in an intimate venue. I’ve mentioned both the rising paradigm of the internet as a pseudo-venue for musicians and, more recently, the new tendencies for niche audiences. This week, I’d like to share some of the more interesting developments in online music marketing that have yet to reach the general public eye, but certainly stand out as highlights of these new standards.

The first, which I’ve mentioned a few times already, is turntable.fm. I’m terribly biased towards loving this site simply because it was the door to some of the coolest interactions I’ve had both as an artist and a music fan. The site is essentially an abstraction of a music lounge. For each “room,” which have a theme of some kind, there are up to five djs “on deck.” These five users take turns choosing songs to play, either from a large searchable library or from their computer. These songs are voted on as good or bad by the other users in the room, and playing ‘better’ music results in a better DJ score. Users can create rooms at any time, though most choose to find rooms they like and regularly visit. All the while, users can chat about the music (or anything else) in a sidebar or in a private messenger built into the site.

A Larger Turntable.fm room. This one is a mixed theme.

The setup functions well for a few fundamental reasons. First – users are competitively inclined to play the very best music they have, and the resulting spread of music is typically quite entertaining. Second – artists themselves can join the rooms and interact with other users, and, if they tend to produce quality music, can gain a new fan-base on the site. Because users can save any song into their online queue to play later, it’s entirely possible for artists on the site to play a song that progressively spreads across the site, into many rooms, eventually being heard by thousands of users. Last, the community is very active – certain users take it upon themselves to help organize online events with artists, often times with several notable acts playing new material for the first time. The artists get free publicity with active, enthusiastic listeners, and the users are offered constant opportunities to hear the latest and greatest tracks from artists that range from the upcoming to the nationally known.

A Typical Mixify Room – Yes, their avatars are very silly.

If one took the concept of turntable and tweaked it to allow a ‘dj’ to physically talk to users and mix between tracks live, they’d end up with a newer and equally novel site – mixify.com. The concepts are otherwise pretty similar. Letting the DJ mirror a live atmosphere is huge though, because it brings the audience closer to the “in the room” experience of a live show. Currently, mixify is host to many lesser-known DJ’s, but I expect it or other clone services to start hosting ‘bigger’ artist soon. It allows a cheap, intimate setting that’s beneficial for both the audience and the artist, and further closes the gap between the two.

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