How to Become a Popular Turntable.fm DJ

Turntable
Posted on 07/13/2011 at 4:29 PM

Related To: News

The Popdust Files: ellie goulding, turntable

Have you tried out Turntable.fm yet? If not, I guess we can forgive you for snubbing the Popdust room the couple times we’ve tried it out—pay attention next time, though, we’re not spinning just for our health. But the music-sharing service—which allows you to create your own chat-room like venues for you, your friends and other like-minded folks to play songs for one another—has quickly become one of the most buzzed-about music sites on the internet, with minor pop celebrities like Ellie Goulding and Swedish House Mafia even showing up to spin in their own rooms on occasion. For pop nerds, it’s a fun way to show off your musical expertise and soak in the knowledge of others in a feedback-intensive format that best approximates the experience of sitting around and listening to records with your friends, likely while you’re at the office putting off TPS reports or whatever.

Of course, this being the internet, there has to be some way to establish a hierarchy of popularity. You can’t just show up and expect to spin for countless anonymous fans like you’re Paul Oakenfold—you have to get in your reps first, and build up a profile through acquiring fans (if they like the music you play, or perhaps if you promise them various riches in the chat window), and getting DJ points (which you acquire by people clicking “awesome” for songs that you select). Average regular Turntable.fm DJs may have points in the high double or low triple digits, with one or two dozen fans, while the true immortals of the virtual decks—such as DJ Woooooo, the current TT standard-bearer—are in the multiple-thousands in points, and nearing a thousand in fans.

But how does one gain this kind of approval over Turntable? It’s a music-playing format where there are no rules, except follow the structure of whatever room you’re in and don’t piss the crowd off, so it can be a little bit daunting to know where to start. In the above BetaBeat article, DJ Woooo offers such abstract tips as “Sticking to the genre is key” and “[fans] want new and different, but not TOO different,” while a recent CNN article offers more etiquette-oriented tips, like “Don’t be judgmental” and “Don’t be a n00b.” But none of this really helps when it comes to what types of songs people really want to hear—what songs will get you the plaudits of fans and points and, most satisfyingly, a room full of avatars bopping their heads to your jams.

More revealing is the Turntable Dashboard, which keeps (relatively) real-time stats of the most popular DJs, rooms and songs, allowing you to more closely analyze what kind of songs go over the best and worst with Turntable audiences. Here’s what we glean from this data:

1. New is good. Of the top ten all-time most-played songs, all ten are from the last decade—the highest-ranking older song is Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” at #12, proving that old internet habits still die hard—and most are from the last year or so, with only The Knife’s unkillable “Heartbeats” from 2003 weighing down the average much.

2. Hip is better. The list of the most-played songs reads like a who’s who of what’s new and hip in music right now—names like Ellie Goulding, Foster the People, and both Sleigh and Broken Bells. Going to the highest-rated songs of the last 24 hours, and it’s no different—Pitchfork favorites like Gold Panda, Local Natives and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs all rate the highest. Though Wooooo wisely hastens DJs against too-explicit Turntable trendhopping (“If you’re just yanking songs from Hype Machine without figuring out how they fit the vibe, you’ll get called out”), clearly on the whole, hip is the way to go here.

3. Pop reigns supreme. You won’t find much metal, punk, classical, country or zydeco among the most-played or most-liked lists on Turntable. More interestingly, though, you won’t find all that much rap or R&B, either. It seems the go-to demo for Turntable DJs is white fans of underground-leaning pop music—songs that might not ever make the Top 40, but could absolutely kill a rooftop party in Brooklyn. Adjust your virtual vinyl crates accordingly.

4. Some songs have no statute of limitation. If you’re going to go old, be warned. TLC’s “Waterfalls” and Los Del Rio’s “Macarena” were two of the most-disliked songs of the last 24 hours, indicating that certain levels of overexposure never wash over, even some 15 years after the fact.

By the way, if you’re languishing over which avatar to use—go with the Daft Punk robot visor head. Four of the top ten most popular users use it, including both of the top two. Plus it’s awesome.

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