$7 Million Later, Turntable.fm Is Shutting Down…

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Just two months ago, Turntable.fm founder Billy Chasen implemented drastic changes to keep the dream alive, including an unthinkable shift towards outsourced, Soundcloud-powered streams.  That saved $20,000 a month (in mostly major label licensing fees), which wasn’t enough.  “We’re not trying to kill it,” Chasen blogged in mid-September.

“You are watching us fight for it.”

Now, the hottest, most-hyped idea of 2011 is officially perishing.  Turntable lasted less than three years, burned through nearly $7 million in capital, and never recaptured its 15 minutes.  The last fumes are being focused on Turntable Live, an online concert experience.

Here’s the moribund decision from Chasen.

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18 Responses

    • Me

      Actually, Spotify was a Turntable.FM killer. It’s not a coincidence that the launch of Spotify in the US coincided with the drop in popularity of Turntable.

  1. jw

    Any start-up that depends solely on real-time interaction is going to have a tough time maintaining momentum. The writing’s been on the wall for a long time.

  2. robert

    Not to mention they earned no funding for any musicians or label and simply stuffed their pockets with the bigger portion of the 7 mil…

    these companies keep on coming and going abusing copyrights and licensing deals…so they can quickly cash in and run…

      • dsn

        Turntable paid a ton of money to labels and publishers, but never managed to generate real revenue from the service. They were definitely not “stuffing their pockets,” as you say. They ran a lean operation — low overhead, a handful of employees. Most of that $7 million was in content costs from the millions of streams they delivered to a community of passionate music fans. I’m sorry to see them go.

      • Danwriter

        “these companies keep on coming and going abusing copyrights and licensing deals…so they can quickly cash in and run…”

        That part is, in spades. More bubble pops to come.

      • MythBuster

        Myth: Turntable abused copyrights, cashed in, and ran.
        Reality: Turntable paid copyright holders. The company’s investors lost ALL of their money, and the employees lost ALL of their time, and likely, some of their money. Those same resources could have been used to build a non-music-related business where the chance of failure was just “likely” instead of “assured”.

        Myth: Music sells itself.
        Reality: Music has to be sold and selling music these days is extraordinarily difficult and almost always ends in the retailer losing ALL of his/her investment. The music industry is a wholesale operation. If retailers can’t make money from the goods it buys at wholesale, the wholesaler will soon have no retailers. It is in every musicians’ best interest to have as many retailers as possible paying a reasonable wholesale price. The only question is what is a reasonable price. So what is the reasonable wholesale price for music? The reality is that most people in the music ecosystem demand a fraction less than 100% of the RETAIL price because music could not happen without his/her participation. Until that problem is fixed, the music business will be broken.

    • Anonymous

      Do you really think that if streaming companies die people will go back to paying $16 for CDs? That’s hilarious.

  3. FarePlay

    Clearly, operating in this sector is a big money gamble as Spotify is proving. Unless Spotify can reach their goal of IPO before the appetite for funding expires, they will not survive.

    Whether Spotify will ever be profitable is the real debate, because in the process as some artists have confirmed, the Spotify model really isn’t beneficial for most artists. Even if Spotify were to increase their payouts by 500%, that wouldn’t come close to making up for the loss of recorded sales.

  4. finally some good news

    This is great news. Another shady group of people realizing that we are not going to give up our lives just so that they can brag that they are “innovating” (= loading mp3 files from a database, wow, innovation, wow, how unique).

    • Anonymous

      Nice point!

      And while we’re at it: How come these guys are labelling themselves as tech? What’s so technical about them?

      Artists are way more tech-savvy today than most run-of-the-mill music start-up guys.

  5. jose luis

    It’s a pitty.

    but I think they were too advanced for the market.

    The real time thing is gonna happen. Music will be consuming in realtime!

    Good luck Guys


    Jose Luis Zagazeta
    (La Cupula Music)

  6. cjhoffmn

    I’m disappointed by this – I saw it as a potential outlet for undiscovered acts to get real feedback on their music and interact with fans and potential fans. I used it for a little while and never felt like management was just trying to make a mint and leave. I thought they were trying to create something that’s gone missing – group connection to music. Smaller rooms of people chatting allowed for more genuine sharing of tastes and socializing.

    However, it was clear they didn’t have a real revenue strategy. I agree with that assessment above – also clear that the interactive experience didn’t scale very easily – in fact, while I thought the service was fun – it wasn’t a replacement for going out to hear music, and was too interactive to just let it play. So it fell in between for me.

    I find the comparison to Spotty / Pand curious – I didn’t see TT.FM as a replacement for them because of the interactivity. I wonder if the other platforms like mixify have better chances to scale because of the more dedicated time allotment. Perhaps listeners will make time to watch and interact with the shows if they don’t change out the music & DJs so often.

    Certainly interesting to keep an eye out on the idea, but still seems like it will be small without some unknown innovation.