I was prodded into trying Last.FM again yesterday. As some of you may recall, I tried it last year and reviewed it in passing on my way to another conclusion:
The absolute simplest way to blog your current song is to use Last.FM. They give you an application that you run on your computer (it stays on the dock), and it will "scrobble" (upload to their website) your currently playing song. They use this information to offer you other music and streaming radio to your tastes. There's a whole community aspect of their website that fits in with the new "social networking" internet fad. You can meet people that like the same music you do, for example. All in all, Last.FM is a pretty cool service, and I think they will be a huge success (the YouTube of 2007?). But I don't want another app open all the time.
I can't actually get the Last.FM application to run in the beta version of Leopard that I'm running, but the app that uploads information about which songs you're listening to, iScrobbler, does work. And, more importantly, it doesn't take up space in your dock. As you see in the quoted text above, they've invented a new verb, "to scrobble", for this task. It's not unreasonable.
So why would you want to do this, you ask? The reasons are numerous. Allow me to enumerate a few...
Last.FM provides you with your own personal radio station made from songs and albums that you own. The point of this is that if you are ever away from your home computer and wanting to listen to music on the internet, you basically have access to all your music, albeit in a "random shuffle" format. This radio station is also useful in representing your musical tastes. Take mine (below), for instance. I either own or really like every song I've heard come out of "erikrasmussen's radio station". It's just very representative of my music library. It's the perfect answer to that horrible "What kind of music do you like?" question.
This is where the social networking aspect comes into play. You can set up "friend" relationships with other users on Last.FM (this should not be a foreign concept to you in 2007), and when a friend "recommends" (marks a song as "recommended" while they are listening to it) a song, it will appear both in your Last.FM profile page, but also in a streaming radio station that you can listen to like the one above.
Personally, I think that social forces play a much bigger part in directing album sales than any advertising does. It's certainly true of my buying habits. This is one of the key strengths of Last.FM, I think. Oh, and obviously they make their money by selling you the music.
For the poor friendless Last.FM users, they've devised a way for you to make friends. Every week, they collect a list of people that have listened to the same tracks you have and list them in your Last.FM page (and in the app, I think). And of course there's a Neighborhood Radio Station too so that you can check out what people with similar tastes are discovering. I haven't been using it for a full week, so I don't have any neighbors yet.
If you tell them where you live, they will provide you with a list of concerts that are happening within a travel radius you specify. And obviously, they filter it by only artists that you like. How cool is that?
I've installed a widget on my blog sidebar to show album covers of stuff I've been listening to. You can click the "see all" link there to see a list of all my recent songs. Or, if you prefer, you can use the official Last.FM widgets and get cool things like this album quilt:
If you are a person that listens to music on their computer while connected to the internet, you really should give Last.FM a try. It even works on Windows and Linux. And it will even scrobble tracks that you've listened to on your iPod when you weren't online. Adding me as your friend is optional. :-)