Sunday, February 1, 2009

Last.fm


Over the last few weeks I've been trying out the music streaming service Last.fm. I love it and it has changed the way I discover and listen to music. This will be old news to you if you've seen my friendfeed (via Facebook or the new sidebar of this blog) because it reports my recent activity there.

At its core Last.fm builds and delivers an internet streaming "radio station" customized to you based on your music collection, listening habits and preferences. It can also suggest additional music that you are likely to enjoy and best of all, it actually works! I've already found some good stuff I had never before heard.

It learns and predicts what you like in a number of ways. First it provides software that plugs into your media player (like iTunes) to see what music you have and how often you listen to each track. You can also manually "love" or "ban" individual songs through the web interface or with Last.fm player software. Once you ban a song it will never be played to you again. Brilliant! I love banning songs. It is mischievously powerful.

The magic of the site stems from its database of 20 million plus user profiles because it allows them to make good suggestions to you based on what people with similar tastes enjoy.

This level of interactivity and customization can't be matched by more traditional one way broadcast medium like AM/FM or satellite radio. I've been a subscriber to Sirius XM satellite radio for a few years now but I'm very close to canceling. The satellite coverage is spotty, the web streams are just re-broadcasts of the satellite stations, and they just recently announced that subscribers will soon need to pay an additional fee for web access.

There are only two reasons I haven't canceled yet. The first is because there isn't Last.fm player software available (yet) for my phone (currently Blackberry), so I can't listen in the car. The second is that there are one or two non-music stations (talk & news) that I enjoy which aren't easily accessible from my phone either. Neither reason will keep me from jumping for too much longer.

Satellite radio has billed itself as the terrestrial radio killer so I found it ironic to learn that while Sirius completed its $5 billion (that's billion with a b) acquisition of XM, Last.fm was purchased by none other than CBS Interactive, a sister company to CBS Radio, for $280 million (with an m).

The future of music is definitely personalized and interactive streams over the internet. I recommend you try out Last.fm. I hear Pandora offers a similar service but I haven't tried that one out.

1 comment:

bustastuff said...

Actually Last.fm has an awesome unofficial app for S60 3rd and 5th editions that allows you to heart and buy tracks. Streaming over edge is surprisingly good as it only seems to take 3-10 seconds to buffer the track and with 3G it will allow you to pre-buffer the next track once it finishes the current track so there ends up being 0 lag in-between songs.

-S. weekes