Tunelab has officially jumped onto the Turntable.fm bandwagon, and if you already know what it is you can join us right here (although the room may be empty till the afternoons or evenings). For those that don’t know, it’s a website where in the simplest terms you can play music for everybody else in the room and everybody in the room can listen to the same thing at the same time. I was first made aware of it by a blog post and subsequent message board thread by Cfw828. Once you use it a few times, it’s very addicting.
The website right now is in a closed beta, but it’s still relatively easy to get in. All you need is to be Facebook friends with somebody else who’s already using/used it. Right now the site only allows you to login using Facebook, but once in it allows you to change your display name if you’re worried about your full name showing up. Once in, you can enter a room’s URL manually or search for a room based on a keyword.In each room, you’ll see anywhere from two to five DJ booths on the podium, which is chosen by the room’s creator (you can also create your own public or private roomes). While you’re listening to music, you can chat about it in the little room on the bottom-right, and there’s also a meter that lets you say whether you think the song is awesome or lame. Democracy works here, as if there are too many “lame” votes, the song stops immediately and it moves to the next DJ. For every “awesome” vote the DJ is awarded a point, which can be used to access different avatars (and in the future, possibly more). Each DJ gets one song a turn, and it rotates in order. There’s no limit at the moment to how long a DJ can stay on the podium (unless the room’s moderator manually enforces a determined limit), so sometimes there may be a bit of a wait to play music of your choosing.
To be a DJ yourself, all you have to do is add some songs to the queue by either uploading MP3s from your computer or searching their extensive catalog of music, and then clicking the “play music” bubble over an open spot if one opens up. It really doesn’t get any simpler or easier than that. One note about their existing database though… while very extensive, the labeling is rather poor. For instance, it may have an album version, soundtrack version, live version, and remix version of a song, but it won’t say which is which. There is a way to preview some of the songs, but I found for most songs you just have to take a guess. At least a few times an evening somebody will accidentally play a live version of a song inadvertently.
As for the legality of the service — it’s a grey area. They did recently announce licensing deals with BMI and ASCAP for royalty payments to their artists, but you can still play artists through the service that aren’t under those two umbrellas. Also by DMCA rules you can’t play songs by the same artists more than a few times per hour, but I noticed in rooms dedicated to certain artists, users simply edited the ID3 tags of the track to spell the artist’s name backwards, or with misspellings, or other changes that let it get by the filters in place on the website. Eventually, they’ll close these few loopholes and nobody will have anything to complain about, but for now they seem to be doing their best to appease the labels and make everything legal, which is all that really matters I think. People will always find away around the rules, and as long as an effort is being made by the site, they shouldn’t face too much criticism for it.
Overall, we love the site and a bunch of us from here at tunelab have been using it quite a bit over the last week. We’ll be planning some special events in the future, so stay tuned for those. Last week, we had Michael and Victor from the band Hurt in the room talking to fans, and Michael even spun a track from his upcoming side-project Arco’s Angel to let the fans there in the room be the first people to hear it. We’ll be having more guest appearances in the future—but we probably won’t announce them ahead of time. The idea is to keep it casual. Join us by clicking the link at the beginning of the article, or no matter what page you’re on, you can always click the little turntable icon at the very top of the page near the other social icons.