Here I am in the most populous room in Plug.dj... with four other people.
What an original idea: A bunch of rooms where cute little avatars can DJ music to each other!
If you've tried the social DJ web or iOS app Turntable.fm, you already understand 90 percent of the new social music service plug.dj, which similarly turns us into cartoon avatars so we can play music to each other in virtual listening rooms.
Using Plug.dj, which runs in the web browser of your computer or Android smartphone, requires that you sign in with Twitter, Facebook, or Google. The company promises not to do anything you won't like with your personal data, but as with other applications that require social log-ins, we wonder why we can't use a plain old email verified too, if that's really the case. (According to Facebook, plug.dj can only access your name and email address anyway, so what's the difference?)
Once you're logged in, everything else on plug.dj is pretty much identical or similar to Turntable.fm, except for where the music comes from. Its music catalog is far more restrictive than that of Turntable.fm. Plug.dj only searches YouTube and SoundCloud, and doesn't let you upload anything yourself. Turntable.fm, on the other hand, recently inked deals with all four major labels, and lets you upload even the weird remixes
This approach -- of using YouTube as an app platform -- adds video to the rooms, but the real reason plug.dj is using it (along with SoundCloud) is likely so that it doesn't have to try to ink direct licensing deals with the labels, the way Turntable.fm finally did after receiving a cash infusion from Union Square Ventures, Jimmy Fallon, former MySpace Music President Courtney Holt, and others.
There are other differences between plug.dj and Turntable.fm, albeit fairly minor ones. On Turntable.fm, you make one song queue that you take to every room where you might DJ. Plug.dj improves on that "single playlist" concept by letting you create multiple playlists so you don't have to worry about getting "lamed" for playing one of your favorite slow jams in the hardcore thrash metal room. Except on plug.dj, it's "Woot!" instead of "Awesome," and "Meh" instead of "Lame." Oh, and the DJs face the back of the room, rather than looking at you.
Plug.dj makes no secret of its similarity to Turntable.fm, and even offers a feature for importing playlists from it, as well as from YouTube or SoundCloud.
But will enough people actually use plug.dj, which appears to have launched in January, for it to become worthwhile? After all, social music services only work if they have a healthy amount of "social," and in our plug.dj testing, the most popular room included seven users. Plug.dj isn't even the only Turntable.fm clone competing for our attention -- see also Rolling.fm, PicoTube, and BeatRobo.
However, Plug.dj did stream the Ultra Music Festival live to one of its rooms, essentially turning the festival into a permanent DJ; more tie-ins like that could help. Also, so far anyway, the service seems to focus on electronic dance party music, which could help differentiate it. As we speculated earlier when reviewing Rolling.fm, maybe the world has room for more than one "Turntable.fm" -- each for a specific type of music fan.