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Is this the end for last.fm?
March 27, 2014 7:44 AM   Subscribe

CBS-owned music site Last.fm have announced an end to streaming radio services. In a move widely attributed to the punishing costs of licensing, last.fm will now source music from Youtube and Spotify rather than from its own bespoke music database. Existing subscribers, particularly Canadians, are not best pleased. With Pandora stocks already in trouble due to licensing costs, what does this mean for the future of user-curated internet streaming radio?

In order to head off subscriber discontent, last.fm is now offering its subscribers a cool 30% off its forthcoming line of exclusive last.fm merchandise.
posted by Sonny Jim (74 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
I didn't even know you could get Last.fm in Canada! Curses!
posted by Kitteh at 7:47 AM on March 27


This is sad, because Last.fm was pretty awesome for a while. But now it's just embedding YouTube videos, ads and all? Why would anybody continue to use it?
posted by jbickers at 7:49 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


I never used Last.fm like that. I used it more to scrobble what I had listened to on other services/platforms and to compare that to those of my friends. Its biggest use to me was seeing what a friend who has similar tastes was digging right now.
posted by inturnaround at 7:49 AM on March 27 [27 favorites]


The labels apparently want piracy to flourish, because people certainly aren't going to start buying CDs again, and broadcast radio is a horrid wasteland of repetitious crap. Here was a business model that allowed people who were interested to pay for music they actually wanted to hear, and the big labels dedicated themselves to destroying it. Hopefully they dug their own graves in the process.
posted by 1adam12 at 7:52 AM on March 27 [20 favorites]


Oh hey, the copyright cartel in effect choses to tank another Internet music site.

I'm beginning to see a pattern here. snicker

Fuck the labels and their monopoly.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 7:54 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Its biggest use to me was seeing what a friend who has similar tastes was digging right now.

And not just friends but strangers who matched your library well. A great source to find things you didn't know you wanted to hear. But there's not so much money in that for them, I guess.
posted by tyllwin at 7:54 AM on March 27 [6 favorites]


This is bittersweet for me, because I loved their streaming services. I'm happy that there are so many (non-Pandora) alternatives now to last.fm streaming like Rdio and Spotify and many many more, and I'm happy they're keeping their core scrobbling/discovery functionality intact, but it's disappointing that there have been so many obstacles for this company to provide all of its excellent services up to this point. I hope this one day will change.

30% off merch is a nasty dirty scumbag way to say sorry for taking away the things you paid for all of a sudden.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:56 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


So, it turns out that trying to screw over your suppliers doesn't really work, and in the end, the one who gets screwed is you. I'm not sure why the tech industry has a really hard time grasping this single simple point. (Probably because they've spent so much time demonizing those producers for protecting their interests, they no longer see those interests as legitimate, and thus get surprised when they are treated as such by the rest of society.) It's the point made in the seasteading article previously - our society is built on interconnecting relationships, and straining the ones you depend on will bite you in the rear.
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:00 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


Except, the ones who are setting these rates are fucking cartels, NOT end to end direct producers. I mean, we do have more direct to artist things these days, but in the end, the model is still predicated upon giant syndicates ruling things. The syndicates are killing any innovation in how things could be done in order to maintain their control. This isn't about "screwing over your suppliers". At the same time I get it. It's difficult as an artist to get money, especially per play, that makes it worth your while.

Why do some people continue to defend the old model, and think that there can't be some new model to take its place? Why is it seen as "old model is the only thing that works" everything else is "stealing"?

Last.fm dicked us over a few years ago when you couldn't listen to your saved favorites (or whatever one that was), and I stopped paying them then. I noticed they were doing spotify and youtube for their streams lately.

They were THE BEST for finding new music. I'm listening to Dimlite right now because I discovered him on last.fm... I made new friends on last.fm.

I honestly don't see what the point of the service is anymore. And no offense, but pandora and spotify are nothing even CLOSE to what last.fm was in terms of ability to social network. Pandora has some interesting music recommendation system, but it's still not anywhere near as good as last.fm was, IMO.
posted by symbioid at 8:10 AM on March 27 [13 favorites]


Another "Never used last.fm like that" person checking in.

I've always used it to keep track of what I've been listening to and to find new things to listen to. In fact I don't think I've ever used their streaming service.
posted by Gev at 8:13 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


What I want to know is how Grooveshark is so fucking awesome. Why doesn't it have the same problem as last.fm?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:14 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


From Grooveshark's WP page:
Grooveshark's legal status remains controversial. It won a major lawsuit filed by Universal concerning its pre-1972 recordings, but other lawsuits are still in progress. As of January 2012, Grooveshark has been sued for copyright-violations by all four of the major music companies: EMI Music Publishing, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group, and Universal Music Group.[3] For one suit complaining about copyright-infringement, the liabilities have been estimated at US $17 billion.[4][5] Concerns about copyrights led Google, Apple and Facebook to remove Grooveshark's applications from Google Play, the App Store (iOS) and Facebook platform respectively. However, Grooveshark was brought back on saurik's Cydia app for jailbroken Apple devices.
Yeah, they're awesome and doomed.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:30 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Why do some people continue to defend the old model, and think that there can't be some new model to take its place? Why is it seen as "old model is the only thing that works" everything else is "stealing"?

Because the "old model" has the benefit of making sure everyone gets paid. And nobody is saying there can't be a new model - what is being pointed out is that if the new model doesn't treat everyone equitably, then why should they sign on?
posted by NoxAeternum at 8:30 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Pandora has some interesting music recommendation system, but it's still not anywhere near as good as last.fm was, IMO.

It might depend on how you use Pandora, because I found Last.fm's streaming radio to be pretty sorely lacking compared to what I got with Pandora, and even years ago Last didn't have a lot of songs available that I wanted to listen to or had the limits on how many times you could listen to them or whatever. I gave up on Last pretty quick, so it might be better than I give it credit for, but I had a lot of success with Pandora as long as I continuously curated my stations - culling stuff that had no business playing on a certain station or adding things that fit really well to the station-generating algorithm as I discovered them. But I've abandoned both for Spotify now, so eh. I still use Last for the scrobbler and keeping track of what I listen to. Their recommendations aren't ever really surprising to me - either stuff that comes up on my Pandora station anyway or solo albums or side projects by guys from bands I already like. So, if I like Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, I might like Lou Barlow's solo work? No shit, Last.
posted by LionIndex at 8:31 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


I have Subsonic streaming music off my collection at home. When archive.org's live music archive of Grateful Dead and other artists don't have anything I'm interested in , and panicstream.com doesn't do the trick, I just go to my own media.
posted by mikelieman at 8:36 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Because the "old model" has the benefit of making sure everyone gets paid.

That's arguable, and this 'new model' has me giving PLENTY of money every month right to Time Warner. If Time Warner isn't giving people their cut, that's between Time Warner and the artist.
posted by mikelieman at 8:37 AM on March 27 [4 favorites]


I don't know what the future holds, but for a while -- three (gulp!) years ago, I guess -- I was deeply in love with a little burst of micro-sharing sites, including Mefi's own GoodListnr and Collaborative Jukebox. I'd like to think there's room out there in the world for that kind of under-the-radar, collaborative-exploration site, where a small group of invited users can curate a queue in real time and share music.
posted by Shepherd at 8:42 AM on March 27


Oh, man, yeah, I never used last.fm for streaming, but it's been tracking my music listening habits for over ten years now. I would be really sad if it went under because of this.
posted by griphus at 8:50 AM on March 27 [13 favorites]


And nobody is saying there can't be a new model - what is being pointed out is that if the new model doesn't treat everyone equitably, then why should they sign on?

But if the current model has one party in the mix getting a disproportionate share, that party doesn't want a new solution that treats everyone equitably. They will fight against equity as long as they can. Wouldn't you?

Now, that may not work long-term. But it will 100% work until the next quarterly earnings reports. It will probably work for years yet. So, regardless of whether you think the labels' position is angelic or demonic, right now, they have no incentive at all to want anything more equitable for artists or listeners. So long as it's less money to them, they'll be dragged, kicking and screaming every inch. As, probably, would I, if it were me being expected to give up some of what I have now.
posted by tyllwin at 9:02 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Is it possible to download all of your data from last.fm? If it is going away, I'd really like to be able to get a list of my scrobbles as a keepsake.

Like a lot of people on this thread, I've never really used the streaming service, but loved being able to see a list of what my friends and I were listening to every week. In the past few years, I've been gradually moving away from iTunes back to CDs and vinyl, but I'd still love to have a record of my listening habits over the past decade.
posted by roll truck roll at 9:04 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


I bought more music because of last.fm than I bought through any other means.

It was awesome to sling some random keywords together like Finnish bossa nova and get a whole afternoon of delightful new artists with no effort.

This is a sad day.
posted by winna at 9:13 AM on March 27 [3 favorites]


In order to head off subscriber discontent, last.fm is now offering its subscribers a cool 30% off its forthcoming line of exclusive last.fm merchandise.

As noted above, this is a total scumbag move, but their announcement of the whole thing does also contain this:

e understand that many of you will not like this decision. If you would like to cancel your Last.fm subscription please follow the steps here or you can request a refund here.

So they are at least offering refunds as well, it seems, making the merchandise discount seem like a little less of a poke in the eye. But only a little.
posted by Dysk at 9:14 AM on March 27


Is it possible to download all of your data from last.fm? If it is going away, I'd really like to be able to get a list of my scrobbles as a keepsake.

You can certainly export the metadata in your library as a .csv file. Look for the "export" option in the site menu. The idea of the site going away altogether is groundless speculation, and I wouldn't like to add to it, so apologies for the breathless FPP title. Certainly, the company itself is pitching this as a return to its audioscrobbler roots. I do wonder if they see their future as a metadata service, a recommendation and specialised search and browse engine that could plug into other services, like Spotify, based upon existing listener data.
posted by Sonny Jim at 9:14 AM on March 27


Their recommendations aren't ever really surprising to me - either stuff that comes up on my Pandora station anyway or solo albums or side projects by guys from bands I already like. So, if I like Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, I might like Lou Barlow's solo work? No shit, Last.

Are there any other services that are significantly better? Maybe I have high standards or weird tastes or something, but I've never met an automated recommendation engine--last.fm's, other streaming music sites, Netflix, Amazon, whoever--that I thought was all that great.
posted by box at 9:15 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Is it possible to download all of your data from last.fm? If it is going away, I'd really like to be able to get a list of my scrobbles as a keepsake.

Try here.
posted by cincinnatus c at 9:27 AM on March 27


The labels apparently want piracy to flourish, because people certainly aren't going to start buying CDs again, and broadcast radio is a horrid wasteland of repetitious crap. Here was a business model that allowed people who were interested to pay for music they actually wanted to hear, and the big labels dedicated themselves to destroying it. Hopefully they dug their own graves in the process.

The loss of Last.fm streaming isn't nearly as big to me as when Dropbox bought, and subsequently killed, Audiogalaxy. Music streaming services come and go, but lossless rips and torrents on your own server are forever.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:28 AM on March 27


I do wonder if they see their future as a metadata service, a recommendation and specialised search and browse engine that could plug into other services, like Spotify, based upon existing listener data.

They have ten years' worth of a bunch of our data. (Mine!) They should be able to do something with it.
posted by immlass at 9:30 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Libre.fm might be worth another look if you're concerned last.fm scrobbling is going away.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:30 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Does this mean I need to reconfigure MPD because I really don't remember how I did that.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:38 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


So, it turns out that trying to screw over your suppliers doesn't really work, and in the end, the one who gets screwed is you. I'm not sure why the tech industry has a really hard time grasping this single simple point.

Hey, it works for Amazon.
posted by twirlip at 9:38 AM on March 27


I've only sporadically used streaming services. I live in a very rural area. If I'm away from home I just make sure all the music I am going to need is on my iPad, laptop, or phone. Than again, most of my music is based in physical media. Plus I have at least 1.5T of live shows and CDs ripped from friends on the external drive. If I want to jump from Iron & Wine to Brian Eno to Rush to Bill Evans, it's pretty simple. The other day I heard a band called These Wild Plains on World Cafe on NPR. Five minutes on the Internet and I was buying their EP. There are ways to find music without streaming services no matter how idiosyncratic your tastes are.
posted by Ber at 9:41 AM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Are there any other services that are significantly better?

Well, like I said, I used Pandora and it worked well for me when I actively curated the stations that I'd created. I bought a fuckton of I don't know how other people use it, but I created stations using a bunch of artists or songs in a given range (genre or sound as subjectively determined by myelf), so I got more back out of it than just creating a station based on one artist. I think Pandora's biggest problem is that it can get stagnant and play the same stuff over and over, but inputting a larger basis for the stations you create and adding to that as appropriate has kept things moving for me.
posted by LionIndex at 9:45 AM on March 27


it turns out that trying to screw over your suppliers doesn't really work

Spotify booked a loss of $81 million last year.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:53 AM on March 27


Once upon a time, Last.fm was my favorite of the various music streaming services. I found their interface the easiest to use, and I really liked that they included bio and detailed genre information about each artist.

Nowadays I listen to Songza and feel like I don't really discover new bands, since their interface deemphasizes the individual artists and self-described genres/scenes in favor of moods or generalisms like "indie" and "electronic".
posted by Sara C. at 10:10 AM on March 27


aww, I will be very sad to see last.fm go. I really really wish that lastgraph still worked.
posted by rebent at 10:11 AM on March 27


The loss of Last.fm streaming isn't nearly as big to me as when Dropbox bought, and subsequently killed, Audiogalaxy.

I was wondering why I couldn't find that anymore when I was looking for a currently workable solution for streaming from my own drives to my phone when it wasn't on the local network. Fucking proprietary cloud clowns.

Clouwdns.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:14 AM on March 27


Oddly, I pulled up my Pandora account yesterday and listened for a while, and thought maybe I should check out Last.FM streaming since I’ve been on the site for 9 years and never looked at it. I did a little tweaking to Pandora and saw the last time I used it was 5 years ago. I’m still an music member (although I’m not sure why) since the late 1800’s and I’ve never tried their streaming either.

I have to conclude that I’m not really a streaming service person. It always seems like something cool though. But I own tons of music I haven’t heard yet, so there’s that.

I use Last.FM like I use Librarything and used to use Goodreads, to keep track of things and see recommendations. I’m not sure that I realized they had anything to subscribe to.
posted by bongo_x at 10:31 AM on March 27


People love to hate on gamification and the social media surveillance state, but last.fm's scrobbling has always been invaluable to me. It's truly the best way for me to keep track of how my musical tastes have shifted (or not) over the past few years. An obsessive, data-driven monument to vanity. Now, if only they would provide a service where they use algorithms and data analysts to create trend charts and write hip blog posts with infographics analyzing my tastes in detail.
posted by Apocryphon at 10:37 AM on March 27 [1 favorite]


what does this mean for the future of user-curated internet streaming radio?

G*********k
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:50 AM on March 27


Scrobbling is neat; streaming is for suckers and dilettantes. I own my music, thanks.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:47 AM on March 27


I would say streaming is for people want to listen to far more music than they could possibly own. There is a lot of music I've listened to over and over, but I want to do that because I am choosing to, not because I can't afford to buy a new album right now.
posted by mountmccabe at 12:01 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Does anyone else think that "will instead source music from YouTube" is an amusing middle finger from Last.FM, since probably 75% of the music on YouTube is of incredibly dubious copyright status?
posted by jferg at 12:11 PM on March 27 [8 favorites]


Wait, you mean streaming EVERYTHING for less than a cost of a CD is a model that is kind of unsustainable?
Good. I really hope for streaming pay models that actually will give more than a few pennies to artists.

Now, if we could only arrange that without so much of the middle-man bloat...
posted by Theta States at 12:15 PM on March 27


This is too bad, although once they got bought by CBS it was pretty much written in the stars. For what it's worth, if all you used last.fm for was scrobbling, there is a free alternative, libre.fm. Not sure how much client support it has, though I've seen at least a few mp3 player software packages that hook into it.
posted by whir at 12:21 PM on March 27


Do you know, does libre.fm offer any sort of functionality where you're able to look at the playlists/libraries of other users similar to yourself?
posted by tyllwin at 12:26 PM on March 27


I haven't been using Last FM for anything but scrobbling lately, but their multi-artist radio used to be invaluable, especially when I was working hipster retail.

One person would want to hear Big Freedia, another would want to hear Blood Ceremony and a third would want Andrew Jackson Jihad, we'd plug em in and BOOM! Two to three hours of bounce rap, theatrical flute metal, and folk punk (y'know, before all three genres became absolutely insufferable and we had to plug in three new artists)

Is Pandora's streaming radio really any better than it used to be, or better if you curate it? From past experience, if you plugged an artist into Last FM, they would do a really good job of creating a station of artists that evoked the same feeling as that artist (and a good job of pulling out influences, contemporaries, and bands inspired by the artist I picked) whereas, for all its touted algorithms, Pandora would make really surface level, suggestions (like, "you want to hear The Monks? Here's some popular guitar bands from the 60s and 70s. .. Enjoy Led Zeppelin and The Doors!" Or "You like A Tribe Called Quest? We're pretty sure you'll get the same experience with Sir Mix-A-Lot and Dr. Dre!")
posted by elr at 12:30 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I feel like Last FM is a nagging friend, like, "Look, you've been dancing all around them for years. Just tell me if you like Television's 'Marquee Moon' and I'll drop it. Give it one listen and I'll shut up."
posted by elr at 12:33 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


Streaming is for exploring before you buy it. If I stream an album more than twice then I buy it, but I'm not going out on a limb and buying experimental accordion music sound unheard.

Well that's a bad example because one of my sternest personal laws is ALWAYS to buy the experimental accordion music, but you know what I mean.

love you, miss murgatroyd!
posted by winna at 12:38 PM on March 27


Is Pandora's streaming radio really any better than it used to be, or better if you curate it?

I did abandon it for Spotify, which has a decent "radio based on an artist" feature, so I don't know if it's any better now than it used to be, but I was putting in way more than one artist or song as a basis for it to work off of. For a couple of my stations, there was some diversity in what kind of music those artists played, although generally in the same genre.
posted by LionIndex at 12:41 PM on March 27


But what I mean by curating it is if it gave me an artist that I liked that fit the station well enough I'd add that artist to the station profile. I was also relentless about giving things thumbs-downs, but I think most people do that.
posted by LionIndex at 12:43 PM on March 27


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posted by Nanukthedog at 12:46 PM on March 27


Man, last.fm's streaming radio really was the best that I've seen. I can't believe that people who actually enjoy music spend much time listening to Pandora; as far as I can tell it's still mostly on the level of "you liked a rock band? You'll love Coldplay! You liked a woman artist? You'll love this other woman artist!"
posted by threeants at 1:13 PM on March 27 [6 favorites]


240526 plays since 20 Apr 2005

I always liked the My Neighborhood Radio. Lots of new stuff that way. And sometimes you know what you want to listen to, but you don't want to listen to the same things in your library you've listened to a thousand times before. The streaming services were really great (especially before they changed things up last year, or whenever that was). And I found lots of cool stuff through random interwebs people friending me based on our shared music compatibility... I guess that's still there but without the instant satisfaction of streaming it feels kind of pointless.

I also always kind of harbored a hope I'd get to go work for them. I thought that would be super cool, getting to hang out with music and stats nerds and do neat things. Guess not, now. :(

On the bright side, this does end my guilt trip for every time I forgot to disable scrobbling before listening to something like "Track 01" by "".
posted by sldownard at 2:43 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


I haven't used last.fm much, but its demise is just another hammer blow to the already comatose body of streaming radio. Shoutcast still exists (but you can't use Winamp with it comfortably) and there's still things like AccuRadio and songza, but that's pretty much it for music that's curated by someone else, at least so far as I'm aware of. It would only take a couple of corporate mergers or lawsuits, and self curated grooveshark will stand alone.
posted by Kevin Street at 3:02 PM on March 27


Man, last.fm's streaming radio really was the best that I've seen. I can't believe that people who actually enjoy music spend much time listening to Pandora; as far as I can tell it's still mostly on the level of "you liked a rock band? You'll love Coldplay! You liked a woman artist? You'll love this other woman artist!"

This. I haven't used another radio app for more than 10 minutes since last.fm totally farted out.

And... Damnit, i loved this site so fucking much.

During it's heyday in the mid-late 2000s when i was in high school it was, alongside myspace, the place i found good new music.

Not even just stuff getting popular online either, but tons of local bands/producers/little netlabels and stuff would upload their entire catalogs or at least tons of tracks to the radio.

The radio recommendation engine was better than anything else i found. I could go play blabla band radio, or recommended radio, or friend or girl i just mets-stream radio. I could skip whenever i wanted to, quickly like songs without getting any stupid popup, and for the LONGEST time there were no ads.

I heard 1000x better tracks and more interesting obscure stuff i had never even vaguely heard of on there than i ever will on pandora, or spotify, or rdio, or any other limp-dicked "replacement".

My favorite memory of it is when i had just gotten an iphone 3g, and the app was out. The app RULED. Then i got a warning i'd have to go pay to keep using mobile, and i didn't even care because it was only a couple bucks and it was so good.

After that, which was already post CBS buyout, it quickly slid downhill. People quit uploading new tracks so the radio stagnated. The ads came in force and were glitchy and often had trouble loading in addition to having volume issues. There was an intermediate time when they had multi artist radio and some of the other late in the game features, but it still worked ok. It feels like that only lasted like, a season though.

It's like seeing your favorite bar or restaurant slowly slide in to disrepair and go out of business. You knew it was coming, but it fucking sucks. And you'll always remember the time you finally got food poisoning from there and the guy you had seen there every day for years was gone. You went back a couple more times anyways, but you knew it was doomed.

The closest thing to it for me now is soundcloud, and that's only really good for electronic-ish music honestly. It's also pretty labor intensive since their "similar to" mode is hit or miss, and you really just want to click through lists of things people whose stuff you like liked. It's an extra tab in your browser thing you interact with, not a flip it on and wash the dishes and take a shower with it blasting the whole time and not have to touch it thing.

I seriously found more music i liked through their radio than any other method ever. And although i feel like it's been dead for a couple years already, it's still sad to see it go.
posted by emptythought at 3:59 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Scrobbling is neat; streaming is for suckers and dilettantes. I own my music, thanks.

Thanks to streaming, I typically listen to 5-10 new albums a week. There's no way in hell I'm going to actually purchase all of that. There's also no way I'm going to seek out or purchase MP3s when mostly everything I want is available on the cloud without hassle. I still continue to buy physical records and cassettes that I really care about, but that's really it. I also get to hear plenty of pre-release stuff thanks to NPR, Pitchfork Advance, etc. Artist payment questions aside, we're in a utopia and best of all it's perfectly legal!

While Rdio gives me everything I want on demand, it's also cool to go into pure discovery mode. Last.fm was the best service I knew of for that, and its recommendation system was based on years of scrobbling, so this sucks. But I'll live.
posted by naju at 4:15 PM on March 27


I've never been that into music, but the last few years have been a revelation. It's so much fun, following the tenuous "other artists" links on a site like last.fm and discovering new (to me) groups like Coyote Run and Patrick Street. Kind of like discovering a vein of gold at the end of mine shaft. Never would've heard of them in a million years just browsing the shelves at HMV.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:44 PM on March 27


Man, last.fm's streaming radio really was the best that I've seen. I can't believe that people who actually enjoy music spend much time listening to Pandora; as far as I can tell it's still mostly on the level of "you liked a rock band? You'll love Coldplay! You liked a woman artist? You'll love this other woman artist!"

Yes, this.

No matter what type of artist with which I seeded my station, Pandora wanted me to listen to Cat Power. I could be listening to a Norwegian death metal station on Pandora and sure enough it would try to get me to listen to Cat Power. I was once listening to a station started with Portuguese hip hop and Lo and behold! Cat Power!

It did it so much that now, through no fault of the music, I kind of hate Cat Power.
posted by winna at 5:02 PM on March 27 [4 favorites]


Can't use Pandora, so I dunno about them, but the fun thing about most of these music sites is following links at least three or four deep, from "you might like" recommendations or songs in other user's playlists that also contain songs you've listened to previously, until you end up in totally unknown territory. Kind of like a giant Choose Your Own Adventure book with musical options instead of character actions. But if they all lead to the same group, that would harsh the mellow a bit.
posted by Kevin Street at 5:15 PM on March 27


1adam12: "Here was a business model that allowed people who were interested to pay for music they actually wanted to hear, and the big labels dedicated themselves to destroying it. Hopefully they dug their own graves in the process."

Yep. The licensing rates for internet radio were a big ol' OPERATION FOOT-BULLET. You'd think they'd learn from having stuff like VHS rentals forced down their throats but collectively big copyright holders seem completely unable to take the long term view.
posted by Mitheral at 6:15 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


On the cat power thing, that brings up another point. All of the popular services now seem like they have some kind of ability on the back end for a label to pay to have a specific artist played way more on peoples radios. Like, they pay for a specific number of plays or something.

I have no way to confirm this, but it's a huge hunch i have. Especially when stuff like that happens and totally unrelated artists play on streams that seem to show up on other streams.

It feels like the facebook "exposure" thing that page owners can pay for, but with music. And it's really kinda gross.

Especially on a service you pay for, it's like FFS. Last.fm felt like it respected the user until very late in the game. The other services reek of "advertising platform".
posted by emptythought at 6:40 PM on March 27 [1 favorite]


Man, last.fm's streaming radio really was the best that I've seen. I can't believe that people who actually enjoy music spend much time listening to Pandora; as far as I can tell it's still mostly on the level of "you liked a rock band? You'll love Coldplay! You liked a woman artist? You'll love this other woman artist!"

Early on in this space Pandora was so insistent on recommending CCR -- a band I'm not even that crazy about to begin with -- that it kind of soured me on all these streaming services. I wish I'd had more early exposure to something like last.fm.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:04 PM on March 27


emptythought, I can confirm it's true - at least for the services I've gotten a peek into. Major labels (and major indies) are willing to pay a premium for placement and exposure, in all senses of those terms. On one hand I see what you're saying that it's kind of gross, but on the other hand, how are these services monetizing, exactly? Last.fm probably wishes it could monetize more, if only to keep its services solvent. Like most things, if the price is low or nonexistent, ask yourself whether you're also the product, and whether you're okay with that.
posted by naju at 7:13 PM on March 27


So what I'm hearing is that I'm actually in a small way entitled to hate Cat Power.

High five!
posted by winna at 8:46 PM on March 27


I remember briefly experiencing Last.fm radio a few years ago, back when they first started doing it but before they locked out Canadians from using the free service (back then I sure as hell wasn't going to pay a monthly fee for internet radio as an unemployed recent graduate). It was better than Pandora by a country mile, and there are artists I discovered through Last.fm streams that I still listen to today. The only reason I'm not particularly sad about this development is that, frankly, I had no idea Last.fm streams were still available in Canada at any price, so byzantine was their structure (streaming was gated based on whether you were a subscriber or not AND what device you wanted to listen on AND what country you were in).

Rdio is, on the one hand, a much more palatable way to spend $10 a month for music, and on the other hand also extremely hit and miss when it comes to music selection. Anything Japanese? Forget it. Anything from twenty years ago that isn't incredibly well known? Maybe they have it, maybe they don't. (Half of Curve's library is missing for no apparent reason.) New indie band? 50-50 chance they're on Rdio. It's basically impossible to drop your music library and listen to everything on Rdio; I keep Subsonic around as a backup jukebox at work and I still put 20GB worth of music on my phone because the thought of having to rely on Rdio's selection AND my occasionally spotty 3G connection frightens me.

As for Last.fm, I worry that this is part of their incredibly slow decline into irrelevance. No one I know uses Last.fm for scrobbling, streaming radio, or really anything at all. Which is sad to me, because I still think it's a great place, even if I'm not totally sure what I use it for anymore.
posted by chrominance at 9:22 PM on March 27


I just signed up with libre.fm and it looks like someone already came up with a CLI way to get my last.fm data over onto it so I can finally release my held breath, here.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:41 PM on March 27 [2 favorites]


From past experience, if you plugged an artist into Last FM, they would do a really good job of creating a station of artists that evoked the same feeling as that artist (and a good job of pulling out influences, contemporaries, and bands inspired by the artist I picked) whereas, for all its touted algorithms, Pandora would make really surface level, suggestions (like, "you want to hear The Monks? Here's some popular guitar bands from the 60s and 70s. .. Enjoy Led Zeppelin and The Doors!" Or "You like A Tribe Called Quest? We're pretty sure you'll get the same experience with Sir Mix-A-Lot and Dr. Dre!")

Is that how Pandora turned out? They dropped out of Canada ages ago, so I only saw a bit of how it worked in practice, but I thought the Music Genome Project was kind of great, as an idea, although - they've taken down the Wikipedia page listing the attributes they do their stats around, but I remember things like "shimmering guitar" and "moody vocals" being in there. This comment from the relevant edit page probably sums up the problem:

I'm personally fond of this list, but there are absolutely no secondary sources discussing the attributes, nothing on how they're determined, so on and so forth. As interesting as the list is, there's nothing to suggest notability. ~Cheers

and I guess their analysts are BFAs.

All the other recommenders operate around demographics, I think.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:44 PM on March 27


No matter what type of artist with which I seeded my station, Pandora wanted me to listen to Cat Power.

For me, it's rock music played by string quartets. Why, I've no idea. I must have clicked "thumbs up" to one of them at one point, and now it's stuck as the sort of local minima of my Pandora profile. All my Pandora stations will eventually end up at Metallica being played on a cello. Every. single. one.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:54 PM on March 27 [3 favorites]


I'd be a lot more concerned about the imminent demise of the streaming services, if the algorithms of say, Pandora didn't miss some obvious stuff.

"So your stream titled "GrrlRock" includes the bands Republica, Elastica, Garbage, Joan Jet, Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Le Tigre...Hmm. What's the common denominator... I know! You must want to listen to Smashing Pumpkins! And the Killers! Right? Right?"

Fuck. Get back to me when the artificial intelligence of these services actually has some intelligence
posted by happyroach at 1:23 AM on March 28


Wow, Pandora's always been great for me, but I don't listen to that much rock, so maybe that's it. I have stations like "French Cafe" and "Electro Swing" and as long as I'm good about giving thumbs up and down it's pretty well on target. No Cat Powers, either!
posted by clerestory at 2:01 AM on March 28


I defeated their Cat Power shenanigans by STARTING a station with Cat Power. Take that, Pandora!
posted by LionIndex at 8:09 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


I always thought the whole point of last.fm was the scrobbling and discovery services. Despite being a very heavy last.fm user (I scrobble everything from my own media player) I've always found their radio algorithm to be lacking at best, and simply would sort through the recommendations and 'Similar Artists' links myself.

Honestly I think integration with Spotify is a great move. I don't see how this is being heralded as the end of Last.fm at all.

They should groom their community a bit more -- a forum not full of spammers and idiots would go a long way to ensuring that people continue to use their music information and recommendation services which I'm sure drive many, many clicks to artists and music sites (like Spotify).

Plus the site is owned by CBS so every time one of their artists gets a show promoted to a Last.fm user, CBS wins and Last.fm wins.
posted by unknownmosquito at 9:10 AM on March 28 [3 favorites]


As a die-hard fan of obscure dark ambient music, for me last.fm was always about scrobbling, checking out what friends with similar tastes were listening to, and music discovery. I love the bios and photos of each artist. Years of reading all those bios, while making good use of the similar artists links and social media features, enabled me to build a strong enough knowledge base about dark ambient music that I am now writing a book on the subject, and I've developed a reputation as the go-to person for recommendations in this genre.

I won't miss the streaming because I now own all the dark ambient music I listen to, but I still love last.fm, and I'll continue to scrobble my tracks there as long as it's still available.
posted by velvet winter at 9:12 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]


I went to use my Last.FM app on my XBox for the first time in a long while yesterday and noticed that it was gone. Alas.
posted by daHIFI at 11:36 AM on April 1


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