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Take Your Music Across Cultures With Plug.dj Listening Rooms

Plugdj-imageAs many have noted, Plug.dj's social listening room experience is similar to Turntable.fm back when it existed. There are some clear differences but the idea of gathering together in groups to listen to music curated by dj's while chatting with friends and new acquaintances is pretty close. I spoke yesterday with Sachi Kobayashi, Director of Communications, about music marketing possibilities at Plug.dj and found myself in a discussion of cross-cultural differences and why they matter in both music tech and music marketing.

Plug.dj Often Compared to Turntable.fm

Plug.dj recently received $1.25 million in a seed investment round. This news followed that of Turntable.fm shutting down so many have crowned Plug.dj the successor of Turntable.fm. In fact, numerous users moved to Plug.dj from Turntable.fm and I'm told they have been quite positive about the new digs.

There are some noticeable differences. Plug.dj turns to services like YouTube and SoundCloud for music without having to deal with the expensive and time-consuming licensing process that Turntable.fm embarked upon. This choice also allows for music videos to be part of the experience.

Plug.dj doesn't have limits on room size while Turntable.fm broke big shows up into separate rooms which always struck me as somewhat odd.

My experience of Turntable.fm was limited to the early days but dropping into a show on Plug.fm reminded me of my dim memories of having an avatar in a virtual room focused around whoever was dj'ing with a chat feature that could be quickly overwhelmed by an active or large group. I noticed that my avatar wouldn't move and I felt a bit restrained by that but otherwise it seemed similar to my Turntable visits.

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Cross-cultural Awareness at Plug.dj

However my experience of both platforms is limited so I took the opportunity to speak with Plug.dj's Director of Communications, Sachi Kobayashi, about examples of musicians using Plug.dj for professional development.

Actually I thought it would be a simple information exchange about what was happening possibly leading to a case study or similar post. But I was delighted to find that Kobayashi has a strong understanding of both the product and the social aspects of Plug.dj experiences, in part because of her own Masters research at USC Annenberg in Communications Management.

It turns out that, at one point, she went to interview folks at Plug.dj for her research and it turned into a job interview. Kobayashi was not only quite adept at digging into whatever topic I brought up but organically connecting it back to Plug.dj's mission and message.

I mentioned my brief experience of Plug.dj and we quickly got into the "why" behind some of what I found.

For example, I wanted to be able to move the avatar around in the space but Kobayashi pointed out that as a community serving a global audience they have to take into account cross-cultural differences including differences in personal space and physical interactions. Obviously other behaviors, such as weird negative activity, could also emerge but the cross-cultural issues and possibilities became a big focus of our discussion.

One of the benefits of a site like Plug.dj is that music often speaks across cultural differences. This is especially true right now with both EDM and other forms of electronic music which to some degree dominate Plug.dj rooms.

The popularity of EDM has opened up possibilities for artists to introduce themselves to new listeners from other countries. In particular, musicians from outside the U.S. may find it a good way to start developing fans in the States.

Listening Parties and Music Feedback

For example Wiyaala is a singer/songwriter from Ghana categorized as Afropop. Afropop has received widespread attention over the years but isn't necessarily recognizable to young EDM fans.

Wiyaala held a listening party on Plug.dj for a Remix EP of her single "Make Me Dance" featuring a broad range of EDM genres. To further broaden the appeal, she invited musicians from Greece and Australia to join her.

The result was a successful listening party with some interesting aspects. For example, Kobayashi said that many listeners came for the EDM and as they spoke with Wiyaala began to find out more about Afropop. This personal engagement in a group setting is one of the big opportunities artists have for reaching new fans on Plug.dj.

Kobayashi pointed to such encounters happening at multiple levels. In addition to being able to introduce new music and chat directly with fans and future fans, djs have used the service to share their experiments and talk shop.

For example, someone fairly new to production might experiment with a technique and then seek feedback from more experienced producers as well as from casual listeners. So what may appear to be primarily an enviroment for putting on a show can also support other interactions.

Getting Signed and Communicating Across Cultures

Monstercat is an EDM-label that is active on Plug.dj. Earlier this year they encountered and signed 7 Minutes Dead. While they use the platform to discover new artists they also encourage signees to have a presence which sometimes just means dropping into rooms and chatting with listeners.

Kobayashi says that Plug.dj is always looking for ways to support such activity and will develop future features with that in mind.

Kobayashi also noted that one of the special features of the community of users is that they were often quite willing to overlook cross-cultural differences in behavior in order to find out about new music. That's a good sign as small mistakes could otherwise be easily magnified.

Overall Plug.dj does seem like a welcoming space for musicians and music listeners. Given the depth of Sachi Kobayashi's observations it seems pretty clear that Plug.dj is strongly tuned into its users and is worth investigating if you're seeking new friends and fans.

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Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (Twitter/Facebook) is building a writing hub at Flux Research. To suggest topics about music tech, DIY music biz or music marketing for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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