Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

Why I love last.fm

For the best part of four years I’ve been a member of last.fm, which is a sort-of social network based around the music that you listen to. In a way, last.fm is to music what Flickr is to photography.
It’s hard to definitively describe last.fm in a sentence because it does a variety of things. Probably its most well-known feature is to list what songs you’ve recently listened to, which is done through a client program installed on your computer which uploads whatever track you’ve just listened to on your favourite media player (called ‘scrobbling’). But last.fm is clever – it can use that data, and make recommendations to you. Over time, as you feed it more data, it’ll notice trends and start to recommend other artists or bands that you don’t listen to but it thinks you might like.
There’s more than that though. There are groups you can join, like on Facebook, and the music you scrobble is aggregated in these groups – and you can discuss things in them. Each artist/band page and every track is also a Wiki, so you can find out information about the music you listen to. And it will show you events near you which feature bands or artists you like, and recommend which festivals to go to.
And then there’s the radio stations. As the name ‘last.fm’ implies, this could be the last ever radio station you listen to, because last.fm will be able to create your own station playing the music you like, or that it recommends. Royalty reasons mean that this feature is somewhat limited to non-fee paying users, but it’s still useful.
Finally, open APIs allow other applications to use this data – Tweekly.fm for example posts a weekly summary of the artists I’ve listened to the most to Twitter on a Friday. You can also create a tag cloud of your most listened-to artists.
Thanks to last.fm, I’ve discovered a range of bands that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, such as Delain, Epica, The Rifles, Nemesea, Boy Kill Boy, Son of Dork and SR-71. last.fm usually lets you listen to samples of songs, or offers links to Spotify should it be available in your country.
Over the past 4 years I’ve scrobbled over 20,000 song plays, mostly from either iTunes, Spotify or from my iPod. Almost all media players are supported in some way, either using last.fm’s client, an alternative such as iScrobbler which I use or because the media player natively supports it (VLC, Spotify and Songbird all have native support or through an official plugin).
All in all, if you like music, last.fm is a great way to find new music or connect with people with similar tastes. Long may it continue.

2 Comments

  1. Wow, what timing. Today is my last.fm-aversay and I was going to do a blog post about it of my own. Since I joined back in 2006 I’ve discovered more music via last.fm in four years than I have in probably the last 25 years combined.
    last.fm is such a fantastic resource and one of my absolute must-have sites. If the entire internet went dark tomorrow apart from Twitter, Flickr & last.fm I’d still be a very happy camper.

  2. Really? I haven’t looked at the site for a while, since it stopped playing whole tracks, instead referring one on to Spotify (I don’t have an account there).
    Has that policy been reversed?