September 16, 2011 at 4:08 pm

YouNow Brings Turntable.fm-Style Voting to Live Music

All around the world, musicians are sitting alone by their webcams, and they’re nervous.

They’re about to appear in front of strangers everywhere, where they’ll have to bring their best stuff. Otherwise, these hopefuls will be unceremoniously booted from one of YouNow‘s two (and counting) stages.

“What you’re seeing here is live,” YouNow founder Adi Sideman told Evolver.fm during a demonstration. “Anyone can broadcast from anywhere, using any webcam or mobile device, in front of a live audience.”

Unlike YouTube and other encyclopedic music resources, YouNow’s music section, the current focus of the site, only shows one performance at a time. Everybody on the channel watches together.

If enough people vote in favor of the current performer in the Turntable.fm-reminiscent red-to-green meter, they live to play another minute. Or, if the crowd turns against the them, they get the boot.

It’s neat, and here’s what makes it neater: Performers with better, proven reputations get to jump the queue, guaranteeing that the cream rises to the top. It seems to work now, but we’ll be interested to see what happens if this really takes off. (One easy fix would be to divide things up by genre and/or region.)

From what we saw, the performers tend to be of the “one person, one instrument” variety, with lots of covers — just like in coffeeshops where singer-songwriter-types have tried to out-do each other for years.

However, we did see some decent performers, if you’re into that sort of thing, and the fact that you can also broadcast from iPhone and Android means we should see it in more places — and hopefully, with a band in the frame rather than just solo artists.

We get a kick out of YouNow. It’s a great way to spend some time checking out local (to somewhere) talent. Who knows, maybe it will be the next YouTube (where the next Justin Bieber gets spotted).

Caveats:

- The sound quality is usually pretty terrible, from fully-distorted (not in a good way) to merely hummy, tinny, or buzzy.

- There might not be much to be done about it, given that lots of performers tend to use a single room mic, apparently sometimes just the one in their laptop.

- Watching YouNow takes a lot of engagement on the part of the user. If you hear something you really like, you’ll need to vote the performer up every minute or so, because that’s how often the votes are tallied to determine whether they keep playing.

- The mobile apps have yet to be released, and they will be broadcast-only for starters, while computers already let you do both.