One good turn(table) deserves another, one might say. Hot on the heels of Turntable.fm's big reported round of funding comes Rolling.fm, a Turntable.fm clone that does just about everything the original service does. Will it achieve the same popularity? Who knows, but we're impressed that someone has already launched such a complete knock-off of the Turntable.fm concept.
Rolling.fm is a part of Tenka.com, a "social media advertising startup" registered to its co-founder and chief product officer Tim Zhou, who was a senior software engineer at Google from April '08 to June '10, according to his LinkedIn profile, and worked at IBM before that.
His co-creation, whose domain he registered on June 27 (as Turntable.fm was gathering steam), is a group listening room very much along the lines of Turntable.fm that encourages people to turn themselves into cute little avatars to play music for each other and chat about it -- part of a big and growing group listening phenomenon happening this year.
You log in to Rolling.fm with Facebook -- just like with Turntable.fm. You "become a DJ to play music for everyone in the room" from either a central catalog or your own hard drive; earn credits for playing stuff people like; vote songs "hot" or "weak;" and use credits to buy new outfits for your avatar. The service is divided into browseable rooms (or you can go to a random one), and as a song loads, the DJ stage front displays a pithy, pre-loaded statement telling you to hold your horses.
All of this is precisely identical to Turntable.fm, except the avatars, rooms, and people look a little different. Oh, and when you like a song, it's "hot" instead of "awesome" -- dislike it, and it's "weak" instead of "lame." Plus, there's a cat sitting on the speakers and the DJs rotate through to the same laptop instead of using their own.
Granted, Rolling.fm brings a few additions to the Turntable.fm feature set, such as the ability to see who is in a room in one big list, and a private chat feature that lets you speak directly to Facebook friends even if they're in a different room.
But really, it's a shameless copy of Turntable.fm (which reportedly counts Lady Gaga and Kanye West as investors). Should Zhou and company be ashamed? Who cares? The world needs all the neat ways to listen to music it can get, from where we're standing. It's a case of "the more the merrier" -- even if Rolling.fm is quite possibly the least original web app we've ever seen.
It's also a case of "different strokes for different folks."
The Rolling.fm group-listening web app differs from Turntable.fm in that many of the most popular rooms correlate to specific colleges and universities (although anyone can join those rooms). And so far, we're hearing far clubbier and less indie music than we generally hear on Turntable.fm.
Who knows -- we could be just about to witness an explosion of group listening services, each with its own twist on the Turntable.fm concept that will appeal to a different demographic. While Turntable.fm deserves ample credit for coming up with the concept, it can't really be bad for music fans if that concept continues to be replicated as it has been here… at least until the patent lawyers get involved.