Talking Tech Fri-er-Saturday: Last.FM

My apologies for the delayed Talking Tech column, work got in the way a little yesterday.  However, I’m excited to present the first Talking Tech by Request from Kevin – Last.FM!

What is it?

Last.FM is a streaming audio service that allows users to customize online music stations.  From their About page: “Last.fm taps the wisdom of the crowds, leveraging each user’s musical profile to make personalised recommendations, connect users who share similar tastes, provide custom radio streams, and much more.”

How does it work? 

In order to use the service, you create a profile by choosing a username, email address, and password (but no other personal information).  You can add as much information about yourself as you wish in the settings, as well as set various levels of privacy

Last.FM encourages you to download their software, which evaluates the music you listen to on your computer (through iTunes, or another service) and uses that information to create a personalized playlist based on the music you listen to the most.  It also recommends similar artists or musical styles that you might like.  They call this “scrobbling”, which means “that when you listen to it, the name of the song is sent to Last.fm and added to your music profile.”

I didn’t want to download the software, but Last.FM allows me to listen to “Last.FM Radio” by selecting an artist.  They play songs by the artist you specify, as well as similar artists.  You can also choose to listen to music based on tags – I chose the tag “90s” to see what kind of music I would get.  For each track, you can either say you like it, or you hate it, and the station will remember your preferences.  You can also search for music by album, tag, track or label.  Stations are ranked by popularity, so you can evaluate a station based on that.

You can pop the music player out of a browser into a small window, if you want to free your browser for other purposes.

Additionally, you can add friends to your profile, recommend music to them, and vice versa.  There are also groups available, so you can interact with other who share your musical tastes, including a Library Lust group that shares music and book discussions.

Last.FM provide several widgets you can embed on various blogging platforms (Blogger, MySpace, Facebook, or other websites), such as a playlist, music player, or chart depicting what music you listen to.  This changes over time as your profile becomes more and more customized.

Possible Library uses

Nothing comes to mind off hand, other than keeping library staff sane while working in quiet offices.  Otherwise, it’s definitely something to recommend to patrons who don’t want to buy music or don’t have mp3 players – Last.FM is free, and can be used online and off (if you’ve downloaded the software).  It has a very large music library that continues to grow as its user base grows.  There are also artist biographies, so you can pull up information about any artist or song that you’re listening to.

An additional possible use is the Events tab, which locates concerts and events in your area.  I was easily able to see that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are playing at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale on February 3rd (for the Super Bowl).  You can limit this search by venue, so if I wanted to only see events at the Cricket Pavilion, I could.  I can see this being a useful resource to answer questions from patrons about upcominc concerts.  You can customize this as well, so you only see upcoming concerts for artists you like.

Final thoughts

Honestly, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Last.fm because I’m a dedicated Pandora fan.  However, I think Last.fm gives plenty of additional features, with the only downside being that in order to fully take advantage of its personalization, you need to download the software to sift through the music on your computer.  I do think, though, that you can still have a pretty good service using just the online radio component.  I think I’ll probably stick to Pandora, personally, but not everyone is as disaffected from downloading software as I am, mainly because I don’t keep much personal stuff at my computer at work, so having a purely online music station suits my needs.

Reviews

CNET (both Last.FM and Pandora)

PC Magazine

ZDNet

Library Juice talks about Library Thing and Last.fm

Ars Technica 

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~ by Anali on January 26, 2008.

3 Responses to “Talking Tech Fri-er-Saturday: Last.FM”

  1. Oh No! Now I have another site to get addicted to!

  2. Anali,

    Thanks for reviewing Last.fm!!! I have explored half of what you did and while I thought about some uses for customers, you came up with some more. Great job! Looking forward to you next tech review!

    Kevin

  3. […] are you listening to right now?”  Blip.fm can integrate with Twitter, Friendfeed, and Last.fm, among other […]

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