Posted: 6:25 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013
By Jill Krasny
The troubled music start-up launches new features. But are they enough to keep it alive?
Turntable.fm is changing its tune.
In a recent interview, co-founder Billy Chasen told Inc. that his online music start-up is doing just fine. Contrary to past reports and even the company's own blog, he says, Turntable.fm isn't heading toward its demise. It's pivoting to stay afloat.
The latest addition to the site, announced Wednesday, is Turntable Live, a new service for streaming live concerts. The program debuts tonight at 7 p.m. ET with a performance by folk outfit Beat Radio. But in contrast to the traditional free Turntable.fm experience, a front-row seat at this performance will cost you exactly $3.
Chasen plans to adopt what he says is the industry standard of giving performers a 70 percent cut of the profits, while Turntable.fm pockets the rest. The move could prove popular with artists, who rely on sales from tours. But few, if any, similar start-ups have turned a profit with this sort of model, and its unclear whether there is sufficient demand.
So far, none of the acts on Turntable.fm's roster seem particularly well-known, and few shows exceeded their modest sales goals (10 tickets at press time).
When Turntable.fm launched in 2011, it was heralded as the tech world's "next big thing." But those days seem long gone. In a blog posted last month, Chasen opened up about his struggles with Turntable.fm, the majority of which were financial.
Piki, his song-picking service, was being shut down due to lack of traction. And despite partnering with four record labels "to do everything by the book," Chasen's company was hemmoraging money--"tens of thousands of dollars a month in royalties, service fees, hosting."
Turntable.fm was fighting for its life and Chasen knew it.
But when asked what it would take for him to leave Turntable.fm, Chasen sighed. "I don't understand the context of the question," he said. "Turntable.fm has been my focus for two years, three if you include the time it took to build it."
Though the live streaming model seems shaky at best, perhaps it will help Chasen dodge the rights and hosting issues he's been battling since the company launched. Turntable.fm might survive, after all.