Turntable today introduced Piki, a Pandora-like, human-powered radio app combined with powerful Twitter-inspired social features. With Piki, the most impressive part is that Turntable is one of the first music startups to get social right. The company has been working on the brand-new service for a year.
“There’s still demand to listen to music that’s powered by other people, instead of an algorithm like Pandora,” Billy Chasen, co-founder and CEO of Turntable, said during a demo for TechCrunch. “But instead of having it in very real-time, in a room like Turntable, we are providing a laid-back experience with Piki,” he continued.
Unlike competitors 8tracks or Songza, it has borrowed one of the most powerful features of Pandora. You just start the app and press play without having to search, browse, or select your mood. The stream goes through songs hand-picked by your friends and offers the option to select a particular genre.
When it comes to using the social aspect, you have multiple unique features at hand. You can share tracks that you like, which is called picking or repicking them. Even though you can add a personal message, you can actually dedicate a song to a friend and it will appear in their Piki notifications and streams.
To add a track to your profile, you can search the song database, choose a track on your iOS device, or make your phone listen and identify the song. Your Piki profile consists of songs you have recently liked. It is much more accurate than Last.fm’s profiles and much more useful than Spotify’s current profiles. At the same time, it isn’t as cumbersome as building playlists on 8tracks.
Piki has a desktop version as well. “Piki is for mobile — the web version is there for people that are using it at their desks,” Chasen said. Right now, users can register for an invitation on Piki’s website. The web beta should open its doors in the coming days and the iOS app will hit the App Store in a month or two.
Chasen was very eager to tell me everything about Piki. The team seems very committed to the app, which is in some ways a move away from Turntable’s current user experience toward a more mainstream and personal music product. “This is a year in the making. It’s been hard because, over the past year, people have asked ‘what’s going on,’ but we couldn’t really talk about it until now,” Chasen said.
Chasen believes that people use multiple music services even though it’s a crowded market. “If I want to listen to a single album on repeat, I’ll use Spotify,” he said. Piki is not the service on which you’ll listen to Lady Gaga’s latest album. At the same time, it is not a passive radio-like experience like Pandora. In the middle, there is room for a music discovery application that remains very personal.
With Piki, you can hear that one song that your friend plays at every party, or you can say that a song makes you think about a particular person. That’s the reason why I’m so excited about Piki’s social features. It goes back to what made music great in the first place: it is much better to listen to music with your friends than by yourself.