Missions In Life: Promoting The Commons on turntable.fm

logo_turntableIf you follow me on twitter, you’ve probably seen one ( and probably a lot more)of these tweets:

Or, you may have seen the re-tweet from Netlabelwatch (sometimes delayed a bit from my original tweet):

I talked about turntable.fm a bit on the Music Manumit podcast recently. I didn’t get too in depth regarding this topic, however there is a lot to say. A couple of comments came up in response to my tweets that highlight a couple of the topics.  First, here’s a comment I made to Small Colin:

And this is very very true.  Honestly, I think the Creative Commons community does try to promote itself as much as possible, however I am interested in finding more and different opportunities.  Playing music on turntable.fm is one of those places where there is an opportunity to expose people to the commons, and try to get people to think about what they are listening to, what they are supporting, and the alternatives.

Now, I don’t go in there and evangelize for Creative Commons, well, at least not much.  (I only point out that the music I play isn’t part of the normal library that is available, and frequently link release pages if someone shows interest in something I’m playing.)  I don’t think the evangelical approach would work well in this environment.

However, DJing on turntable.fm allows me to expose hundreds of people to Creative Commons music that otherwise wouldn’t be familiar with it at all. And, since all tracks can be shared amongst the participants of turntable.fm it is fun to see tracks that I’ve introduced show up on other people’s playlists.  Sometimes it’s happened that the track “exchanged hands” a few times.  And that’s even more exciting to me, because it means there is a level of social interaction around the music, and Creative Commons releases are becoming part of that social fabric.

Another topic get us to some of the darker parts of turntable.fm.  Not everything about turntable.fm is all rosie and nice, as indicated in this comment:

Which is (unfortunately) true.  While I am in turntable.fm, and tweeting every time I play a  Creative Commons artist, not everyone has access to the site.  🙁  Alas, there is only one place to lay the blame for this (as well as a couple of other things I’ll write about in another article): the recording industry.

In order for turntable.fm to have a wide appeal to music lovers the site has a large library of music available for everyone to play.  (Unfortunately, this library does not include most Creative Commons releases, so I manually upload and add most of the music I play to the site.)  Of course, to get this library, turntable.fm had to sign an agreement that stipulates a number of things about how the library is used.  And one of the stipulations appears to be that the library is only made available in the U.S.

As Marc suggested, he could probably get around this by using a proxy server.  I won’t comment on that. 🙂  But, it seems to me that it is quite silly and ridiculous that the record companies have seen fit to throttle turntable.fm with this agreement.  Wouldn’t it be better for them (both turntable.fm and the recording industry) if more of their music was played by more people throughout the world, instead of just being available in one market?  I think it would. And I think most rational (especially business oriented) people would.  But, once again, that is another illogical side of the music industry.

There is an alternative: Plug.dj.  They don’t have a contract with the major record labels.  Instead, they allow you to search YouTube and SoundCloud for tracks.  While this does get around the region restrictions, it means that anything you want to play has to be on one of those sites. (And last I looked SoundCloud was somewhat restrictive in terms of the amount of space that was available.)  Maybe someday they’ll start adding other sources like the Internet Archive, Jamendo and Sonic Squirrel.  If they do this, I’d move over there in a heartbeat since I’d be able to


So, for now at least, I keep going into turntable.fm, uploading Creative Commons releases, and doing my best to expand the audience for the really fine artists that I’ve been listening to.  But, that’s not all I want to do.  I’m still keeping my eyes and ears open, looking for more opportunities to promote Creative Commons artists, aside from promoting my reviews and playing tracks on turntable.fm.  Please if you can think of any other possibilities please use my comment form and let me know!  All (reasonable) suggestions will be considered.

And, I am sure there are some people that don’t understand what turntable.fm or plug.dj are about.  I will write about them in another article to explain what they are, how they work, etc.  Really, I would like to have more people join me on these sites helping to promote Creative Commons music.  Above all else, it’s a lot of fun!

6 thoughts on “Missions In Life: Promoting The Commons on turntable.fm

  1. you got me right, George.

    I for myself let point my music recommendations to the archive database. Fine for single download/collectors/whatever.
    If I want to to do a live set based on their database I would want to mix. Like I do with songs locally on my computer. I have to admit that I play house at most and there isn’t much kicking cc stuff available. For reasons that I do not really understand; but that’ll be another topic.
    So yes, whatever app enables me to do a live set is much appreciated. I try to avoid redundancy and the concept of turntable.fm sounds good. I’ll try plug.dj, this site opens here. My point is, GEMA, RIAA etc. would have to step aside if dj’s use database of archive or similar entities. I have the strong believe that we will see more and more cc licensed music in the next future. I came to know about this stuff back in ~1999 and releases where all crap. Quality definitely changed in recent years.

    It’s a challenge. There’s too much music coming out everyday for one to hear. All competing for attention.Years ago you could run a radio station entirely dedicated to Punk and you had listeners. Today it’s less about genres but perhaps about set of mind? Sure you remember independent record companies. High spirit, low income. Today ‘indie’ became a musical genre. Lol.

    There’s hope. We need apps 😉


    1. Not enough House? There’s more House and Techno stuff in the Commons than I’d like. 🙂 But, I get what you are saying, there’s always some genre that seems to be underserved by the Community for one reason or another. (Classical is a really hard one to find.)

      You kind of lose me on the idea of the RIAA / record companies having to step aside if dj’s use the database of Internet Archive. IMO, where I am trying to push (at least for now) is: why can’t these new platforms (like Turntable.fm and Pug.dj) have IA, Jamendo, SonicSquirrel, etc. as sources alongside the record company stuff? It seems to me that using the API’s (or RSS feeds) it wouldn’t be impossible to build a local index of the tracks from these sources, and when someone requests one they mirror a copy on to their server. Given the bandwidth these companies have to have for streaming multiple rooms, it shouldn’t be that big of an issue. The whole Plug.dj model is predicated on them using API’s to pull music from YouTube and SondCloud, so it’s not something they aren’t already working with.

      The problem with genres today (as I’ve mentioned in a couple of reviews) is that it has become a marketing tool. This kind of evolved out of mp3.com. Several of the guides for that site stated that it was best to be a “big fish in a small pond”, ie, if you are the top artist in a smaller genre you rise to the top of the mp3.com charts more quickly. (This was a way of gaming the system for artists to get more exposure.) That, along with the proliferation of electronic music sub-genres has changed the way many people think about music (especially in the younger generations). Admittedly, it’s not all about my jaded view of the current music industry, but there is a fairly high percentage of it.

      I’d love to have a conversation with you outside of the comments here regarding the API’s for IA, and other CreativeCommons related sites. I’ve been thinking about a few things for writing some apps (not that I have any experience with HTML5 or JavaScript yet, but I think that day is coming soon) that might start to bridge some of the gaps between all of these services.


  2. “Wouldn’t it be better for them (both turntable.fm and the recording industry) if more of their music was played by more people throughout the world, instead of just being available in one market?”

    Clearly not for both. Expectations are too different.

    @Marc, GEMA is weird. A dj (or radio whatever station) has to provide to them a list of all songs played. Until it is not proven that no artist is a member of GEMA they demand fees. Point is, you cannot prove, never (alias etc). Catch 22. A very vicious concept and don’t take my word for it, do a search query.

    I understand that turntable.fm allows for accessing a database to choose music from in order to play live? If so, a dj/listener needs to have decent inet speed both up and download – wow!

    @George, “the whole structure needs to be revamped”. Wishful thinking, you may find yourself waiting a very long time. Developing “CC channels” is the way to go, I guess.

    This archive.org server + API, please! Archive people do an outstanding job. In archiving.

    Greets from a ‘developing’ country…

    1. Well, if you consider that expanding the audience offers a better chance for marketing (both by the music industry and tt), I don’t see where the expectations would be different.

      It’s similar here in the U.S. the collection agencies force radio stations to report the songs they play. Worse, they have roaming bands of collectors that go to shops to demand payments – even if you just have a radio playing you have to pay. And, if you have a CD collection, or some other music source, you have to pay more.

      I the database is just an index query of track information. You add the tracks you want to a queue, and turntable streams them from a backend, next to no bandwidth needed to use their database. However, if you are uploading songs, you need bandwidth for that, but once it’s uploaded, it’s added to your database so you don’t have to upload it again. When you play your tracks, it’s streamed from one of turntables back-end servers…not from your local system.

      I know that it’s wishful thinking that the whole collection society (heck, IMO, the whole copyright and patent systems) need to be revised. That’s why I do things like spinning CC music on turntable… Just one more “dig” at the “intellectual property” system.

      I wonder about developing something that competes (ie, using Internet Archive’s API with a similar platform). So far, systems that have tried to compete with the established sites seem to be lackluster or incomplete (compare libre.fm to last.fm, for example, or compare identi.ca to twitter). Also, the developing something along those lines would only have part of the market. IMO, it would be better to develop add-ons that worked with turntable.fm or plug.dj to extend them to use Internet Archive, Jamendo, CCTrax, Sonic Squirrel, Free Muisc Archive, etc. That way, the opportunity is there to expand the market: take it to the population on the whole. Or am I mis-reading your suggestion?

  3. Being in Germany at the moment, means that a lot of music is not available on youtube. Whenever there is a song in a video that youtube has no explicit permission for, they will block it. The collection agency (GEMA) wants about 0.006 Euro for every play. Due to youtube the Germans have been watching 3.8 billion videos in 2011. If 50% of them contain music, youtube woulds have to pay a minimum of 11.5 million every month. Hard to earn in times of adblocking plugins…

    I used to do my show live via giss.tv. Afterwards I was uploading the shows to Mixcloud. At Mixcloud I was tagging every song, so last.fm users could benefit from it too. Unfortunately they don’t have a option to download the mix, but that was easy to solve with the lovely internet archive.

    I would love to restart my show again, but at the moment the work flow including picking and the proper attribution to the artists is unfortunately too time consuming.

    1. GEMA is as bad as the RIAA, ARIA and all of these corporate recording company organizations and collection agencies. IMO, the whole structure needs to be revamped to make it function with the world we live in today, not the world from 20-30 years ago.

      I had similar issues with doing a podcast. I was spending a lot of time screening recordings, selecting tracks, gathering licensing and attribution information, etc. I didn’t mind spending that time doing that work, but I felt that the method of producing a podcast was sub-optimal overall. The lack of a good, standarized way to index the tracks in the recording itself, it really seemed somewhat anti-useful.

      I might be convinced otherwise in the future (I’ve been considering some other factors in making mixes), but for now I am not going to do a podcast. 🙁


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