What if your dead favorite product rises again?
Usually the first email I open in the morning doesn’t make me scream “HOLY SHIT!” But hey! I connected the turntable servers. “Will do this to you. It was Billy ChasenTurntable’s founder and CEO, OG, and the email contained a password that I immediately merged into my web browser. You see, Turntable.fm was the clubhouse a decade ago: a series of social characteristics that coincided with being together in new ways while breathing life into a familiar format.
Music, when it went digital, got lonely too. The compromise of having all of the world’s recorded music in the cloud was to turn a community experience into a lonely one. Single player mode. Not because of consumer preferences, but because of DRM, label bargaining, and dollars. Turntable brought the listening party back immediately. And it was great fun.
It was spring 2011 and the links were being passed around. Join me here now – one late Friday night with just a few nerds playing old school hip hop songs from our youth. Then a few more people. And a few more people. And a few more people. And before you know it, Union Square Ventures is leading a round and I’m an angel investor in my new favorite product.
It didn’t work as a business. The labels weren’t ready to have a joint discussion. The team didn’t always row together in the same direction. And the turntable finally went dark. Billy and I stayed in touch easily as he and I got older and saw and did more things. He was always able to see around the corner and turn human needs / interaction models into products. Sometimes just a little early. But like most fun projects, relationships outlast the startup. (Up to that point, fun side story: Turntable was also how I met Sahil. He was that young kid who had just created the Pinterest mobile app, and everything was there to get him to join Turntable. Sacca sold him hard. Me too. He turned us all down because he wanted to do his own thing, which turned out to be Gumroad. Little world.)
At regular intervals there was a Twitter thread about turntable nostalgia and we all remembered products that had not been adequately replaced for a long time (Google Reader, RIP). Someone interfered with a link to a collaborative playlist tool, but that was never the magic of turntable.
Now I hang out in the iconic ’80s room, just like I did back then. It feels comfortable, warm and inhabited. Just like a good consumer product can. Some startups have difficulties finding the product market fit. The turntable had it, went dark for nearly a decade, then turned back on with the same PMF. Wow.
What now? Is Turntable going to be a “company” again? Is it just a happy few weeks before the server bills get too expensive or the code too choppy? I don’t know and that’s part of the fun. Because right now it’s 2011 baby and I’m waiting for a DJ spot to open. I have to get my monkey back …