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last.fm gets major upgrade
January 23, 2008 8:51 AM   Subscribe

last.fm has gotten a major upgrade. Full tracks stream on-demand without login. Easily get a peek into genre favorites.

Artist coverage is hit or miss, but I was still impressed enough to want to share. Give it a try!

Note: Each track may be played thrice. Tracking method likely by IP.
posted by cowbellemoo (64 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
The things you can accomplish once you have a ball pit in the office.
posted by drezdn at 9:04 AM on January 23, 2008 [7 favorites]




Well, this looks to me like the end of the 30 second preview. If you really like the song, you'll want to buy it to dodge the onerous play limit restriction, making last.fm not so much a jukebox but a huge preview service. I expect digital vendors will be trying to renegotiate how previews work on their own services immediately.
posted by heresiarch at 9:11 AM on January 23, 2008


I was going to say the same, but this might actually be good to just hear what a song sounds like before even going to the "trouble" of downloading it.
posted by DU at 9:11 AM on January 23, 2008


Last.fm fails because their web site generates less traffic than the Pirate Bay?
posted by aaronetc at 9:12 AM on January 23, 2008


Bittorrent doesn't do a single thing that last.fm aims to, and is therefore completely useless compared to last.fm. You may as well compare Bittorrent to Metafilter, Slashdot, or CNN.
posted by Llama-Lime at 9:13 AM on January 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Great! I note from the LastFM blog where they have the announcement that they have an agreement in place with about 150,000 artists and labels to pay them directly for plays. They also mention plans to introduce a subscription service which would allow tracks to be played an unlimited number of times.
posted by rongorongo at 9:16 AM on January 23, 2008


I loved the very first track last.fm played for me today. I clicked on "Buy Album" and was directed to an album for sale at Amazon.com ... which did not include the track I'd just listened to.

Jesus H. Christ, music industry.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:22 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've actually been enjoying Pandora Radio quite a bit lately. The affinities/tastes logic actually works pretty well, got me listening to both old and new stuff that I had not considered.
posted by psmealey at 9:26 AM on January 23, 2008


Can I scrobble from a third party media device like a 360 or a PS3 yet? No? wah-wah-wahhhh
posted by prostyle at 9:26 AM on January 23, 2008


I've actually been enjoying Pandora Radio quite a bit lately

"We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.

"We believe that you are in Sweden (your IP address appears to be /snip/). If you believe we have made a mistake, we apologize and ask that you please contact us at pandora-support@pandora.com "
posted by effbot at 9:28 AM on January 23, 2008


I liked the old plug-in scrobbler model - now I have to have Last.fm software running on my computer in order to have the tracks I listen to in Winamp get scrobbled. The old Winamp plugin seems to have been deliberately rendered highly unreliable.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 9:30 AM on January 23, 2008


Yeah, Pandora is dead outside of the US. No great loss in my book, but on principle I'd just like to offer up a big fuck you to the record industry.
posted by influx at 9:31 AM on January 23, 2008


Oh, and scrobbling is a STUPID non-word.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 9:31 AM on January 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


I'm still only getting 30 second snippets of the artists I like, such as Fennesz and Philip Jeck, when I try to stream an album. Maybe this is only for artists who go cha-ching.

At least the "similar artist" mix radio still works. Server seems to be struggling at the mo, tho.
posted by fleetmouse at 9:42 AM on January 23, 2008


My problem with Last.FM is that it's all based on their "scrobbling" system. Since I spend most of my time listening to internet radio, Last.FM cannot tell very much about me from what I play in Winamp.

I prefer Pandora - you just throw in some seed bands and songs, and it figures out what you like. If Last.FM supported this, I may consider giving it another shot.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:43 AM on January 23, 2008


Pandora is blocked outside of the US...
posted by chuckdarwin at 9:44 AM on January 23, 2008


Well, for someone like me who has a huge music collection I listen to on my computer Last.fm works great for me. I've learned about a bunch of new artists and have networked with other people. Last.fm is actually the only social networking site I actually use. I canceled my myspace and facebook accounts a while back.
posted by hazyspring at 9:47 AM on January 23, 2008




you just throw in some seed bands and songs, and it figures out what you like. If Last.FM supported this, I may consider giving it another shot.

The last.fm player/scrobbler lets you seed your stream with a band. You can also favorite songs that you hear to get better responses.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:51 AM on January 23, 2008


Message to last.fm:

Great! Now please please hire a good UI designer.

Your site makes me hunt for the tiny login link. You assume I am not a member. Then I have to figure out which version of "Events" I need to click on. Is it the top one or the tab one?

My home page is the most useless page of them all and I never look at it. It has a haphazard layout with bizarre use of whitespace. I want to go right to my dashboard.

I love the utility of last.fm and have been a user for quite some time (from back in audioscrobbler days) but please please update the user interface! I beg you. I use your site despite its webpages when I should be using it because of your webpages! I hunt for what I want to see instead of finding it easily. I keep a series of deep links to your site so I can avoid navigating it. Last.fm is probably the least usable of the useful sites I regularly use. That's a bad position to hold.
posted by srboisvert at 9:53 AM on January 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Before I'd caught on to all the digital music you kids are listening to, I previewed albums at Borders (30 second snippet) and Virgin (whole durned album; shit, listen more than once if you've got the time, we don't care).

I bought WAY more CDs from Virgin than Borders.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 9:54 AM on January 23, 2008


I've been pleasantly surprised at how well the LastFM plugin for Rhythm box works.
posted by octothorpe at 9:54 AM on January 23, 2008


Heh, you're very right srboisvert. But does anyone else remember the previous last.fm interface? /shudder
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:56 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


An interesting thing about last.fm: I discovered that someone else had posted some of my music there and that I was getting listens that I was completely unaware of ... no, I'm not here pimping my music to MeFi'ers (if you want to listen, fine*; if not, fine ... it's not to everyone's tastes, I know).

But I found it passing strange that someone was able (and interested!) to take the tunes I had on MySpace and the late-lamented mperia.com, and get them on to last.fm. Now, of course, I am making it official and will be cleaning up what's there, getting some recent and current content up there.

I must say I am happy that they (last.fm) have taken this course of action and look forward to getting my PayPal deposit of $2.35 next year!



* for the curious, go to last.fm and search for "usr/sbin" ... there's only one "album" up there from a webradio show I did last summer, but there are also some singles, too.
posted by aldus_manutius at 10:00 AM on January 23, 2008


The last.fm player/scrobbler lets you seed your stream with a band.

Yes, but does it let you seed a stream with multiple bands? What about seeding a stream with individual songs?
posted by Afroblanco at 10:01 AM on January 23, 2008


I think this is way cool, even though I don't usually use Last.fm like that—I use it as a datamine for my listening habits, mostly because I almost never find new music through there. It's like, yeah, I know that people who listen to the music I do also like the Pixies. I've already got all the Pixies I'll ever need to own. What I desperately hope is that this corresponds with a huge uptick in bands submitting their work, so that I can listen to the full tracks of Racoo-oo-oon or The Hard Lessons or any number of bands that I have to go to MySpace now to hear.
posted by klangklangston at 10:01 AM on January 23, 2008


prostyle: Can I scrobble from a third party media device like a 360 or a PS3 yet?

I haven't tried it lately, but a hacked original XBox running XBox Media Center (XBMC) works *great* with last.fm -- logs in, reports your listening habits, streams channels, etc. I'll try to remember to check it out this evening.

TheOnlyCoolTim: So, yet another "intellectual property" business model that offers a completely worse experience than your friendly neighborhood Bittorrent.

Eh, it's different. Bittorrent is good for when you know (and can find) what you want, but it's easy to get yourself into a rut of listening to the same old bands. I like last.fm because it introduces me to music that's of a style that I like but I might not hear otherwise.
posted by LordSludge at 10:03 AM on January 23, 2008


Pandora is not locked outside the US. (globalpandora is splat!)
posted by Duug at 10:07 AM on January 23, 2008


Yes, but does it let you seed a stream with multiple bands? What about seeding a stream with individual songs?

Not directly. The 'satisfy my urge' radio is seeded only by tag or (single) artist. But the 'Recommendation' radio is seeded by your entire listening habits, including songs you've favorited and excluding songs you've banned.
posted by cowbellemoo at 10:14 AM on January 23, 2008


I haven't tried it lately, but a hacked original XBox running XBox Media Center (XBMC) works *great* with last.fm

Yeah, it's trivial with XBMC. I'm just not exactly sure why in their infinite wisdom they previously developed plugins for winamp, windows media player, itunes, etc yet they refuse or are incapable of creating one that can analyze the data stream of WMP11/Zune software streaming to aforementioned device and strip out the metadata from there. It's too bad I am not knowledgeable enough to write my own, otherwise I'd be all over it. All of my tunes are now streamed through my entertainment system this way, so nothing gets scrobbled anymore... bummer.
posted by prostyle at 10:21 AM on January 23, 2008


Yeah, sounds like I'll be sticking with Pandora for now.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:25 AM on January 23, 2008


Rockbox has offline scrobbling capabilities - it keeps track of all the music you play in your mp3 player in a file, and then there's a script that you can run on that file which parses the file and then submits all of the plays to last.fm. For some incomprehensible reason there is a last.fm group for people who do this.

I think it's also possible to find the winamp scrobbling plugin on its own, without the newfangled (and useless, to me at least) last.fm application.
posted by whir at 10:41 AM on January 23, 2008


I think it's also possible to find the winamp scrobbling plugin on its own, without the newfangled (and useless, to me at least) last.fm application.

Yes. Yes it is. And occasionally, it will even submit a song.
posted by Horken Bazooka at 10:50 AM on January 23, 2008


Does this mean that PandoraFM will not work any more?
posted by billtron at 11:01 AM on January 23, 2008


I'm just not exactly sure why in their infinite wisdom they previously developed plugins for winamp, windows media player, itunes, etc yet they refuse or are incapable of creating one that can analyze the data stream of WMP11/Zune software streaming to aforementioned device and strip out the metadata from there

Is it last.fm that handles that, or other developers with access to the API? I remember both iTunes/iPod plugins I used (can't remember the names off the top of my head) were written by users of the site, and pretty explicity labelled as not being under the official last.fm umbrella.

This is totally a wild-ass guess, but I think streamed data is pretty locked down - if you can get the metadata out then you can just circumvent the DRM, and we can't have that.
posted by heeeraldo at 11:27 AM on January 23, 2008


All I use it for is the charts, and those actually did get better at some point, with rolling averages and such, so I'm ok with that.

I have no interest in listening to tracks through the site though.
posted by smackfu at 11:27 AM on January 23, 2008


streamed data via streaming music players in general, I meant.
posted by heeeraldo at 11:27 AM on January 23, 2008


I'm still getting the 30-second lousy snippets too. It sounds like a good idea, though. Hopefully it will materialize soon.
posted by micayetoca at 11:51 AM on January 23, 2008


I don't know. I just don't see the attraction of Last.fm. I have close to 10,000 songs on my ipod. I can look up similar artists on epitonic and a half dozen other sites. I have to install some stupid widget on my hard drive that "Scrobbles" my computer for rankings and frankly, I don't know if I want my computer to be "scrobbled". So why...why...WHY DO I NEED LAST FM?
posted by Skygazer at 12:05 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I just discovered this, thanks to a plug-in I found for my Slimserver. During the brief time I listened to a “similar artists to___” station I thought it was great. Unfortunately, the plug-in didn’t seem to work too well. It wouldn’t change stations, it would often play the wrong station, and the track info was hardly ever the same as the song that was playing. If I could only get it working I think I’d probably listen to it non-stop.

I don’t see any time I’d listen to it via their web-page though, so other than my marketing data they wouldn’t be making much money off me. I guess I get what I pay for.
posted by bondcliff at 12:06 PM on January 23, 2008


Here's something I find funny, like if you look at the page for Justice for instance, you can listen to one full track and a snippet of three other tracks... but if you click on the video link they link to 200+ full songs hosted on Youtube.


I don't know. I just don't see the attraction of Last.fm. I have close to 10,000 songs on my ipod. I can look up similar artists on epitonic and a half dozen other sites.


Last.fm is a lot more "global" than any other sites I've been to. With last.fm I'm able to follow stuff like, say, the Taiwanese indie scene.
posted by bobo123 at 12:28 PM on January 23, 2008


I've had far more luck with genre and band radio stations on last.fm than on pandora. Pandora seems consistently to pick the most general, boring features of the music I like, instead of the really awesome novel ones. last.fm, on the other hand, introduces novel out the butt. I think the idea behind Pandora is great, though, and I know a lot of people who have had more luck with it than I.

As far as scrobbling, the way it works for my iPod is the winamp plugin I use looks at the iPod's play database, and sends the playcount to last.fm that way. Presumably, any other player that tracks that info could have become scrobble-able if some industrious person wrote a plugin for it.

One last interesting thing is that last.fm makes data available (though audioscrobbler) via an API, which would seem to enable all kinds of really neat relational mapping and metrics to be gathered. I've been meaning to mess around with it one of these days.
posted by !Jim at 12:36 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The winamp last.fm plugin seems reliable to me -- and it also works with ml_ipod, so all my ipod plays get scrobbled when I synch, too.

Also, Metafilter Scrobblers.
posted by muckster at 2:11 PM on January 23, 2008


I'm with Skygazer. I have given it a good long second look, and the latest version of Last.FM still consumes resources and slows performance on my Mac whilst "scrobbling", so fuck that. It's in the trash can. As I mentioned above, Last.FM seems more about finding your tribe than it is about finding new music (to you) that you may not have previously considered. That is something, in my view, that Pandora if very good at and getting better.
posted by psmealey at 2:15 PM on January 23, 2008


I'm still getting the 30-second lousy snippets too. It sounds like a good idea, though. Hopefully it will materialize soon.

I was getting this too. Apparently the previews need to be played in page. Go to your Last.fm website settings; under Playback options, select either 'Play everything in Flash player (in-page)' or 'Play previews in-page and radio in the Last.fm software'.
posted by JT at 2:19 PM on January 23, 2008


Terminal Verbosity, would you please put that comment in a letter to every record company you know about? It's perfect.

One thing I like quite a lot about using last.fm is that I can keep an eye on my own tastes: "Yeah, I have been listening to that song pretty obsessively, what would go well with it?" And it's so ruddy hard to answer when people ask me what kind of music I like ... now I just pull up my last.fm charts and there it is, in all of its non-generalizable glory.
posted by eritain at 2:33 PM on January 23, 2008


I've used last.fm for a while. The recommendations are pretty good, but I've started using my Archos 504 a lot lately (especially at work, with some surprising decent little Saitek A-100 speakers - Some of my coworkers will start IM'ing me if I stop playing for a bit, or with requests.) and there's just not an option right now.
posted by Samizdata at 2:33 PM on January 23, 2008


surprisingly, even.
posted by Samizdata at 2:34 PM on January 23, 2008


Is this something I'd need speakers to understand?
posted by kenlayne at 3:42 PM on January 23, 2008


Last.fm is a lot more "global" than any other sites I've been to. With last.fm I'm able to follow stuff like, say, the Taiwanese indie scene.

That's it in a nutshell for me. There's also the social component. I'm a member of several groups (as more of a lurker than a poster) but I've reached out to people on the basis of odd interests and vice versa.

One of the best correspondences that's resulted for me is when a man from Turkey noticed how much I love Selda, a simply amazing folk/protest singer whose career started in the 70s. We struck up a conversation and he introduced me to half a dozen other singers from the period (their music is often referred to as "Anatolian Rock"): Bülent Ortaçgil, Fikret Kizilok, and Erkin Koray, to name a few of my favorites. Gradually the music has come to be some of the most important music in my life. I have made a point of playing it for everyone I know who would sit still long enough to listen, and I'm sure there's plenty of other unquantifiable positive results along those lines that last.fm has helped make happen.

So now I have a music and a friend I didn't have before, and it's demonstrably made my life better. It's always a happy thing to be reminded that matter how strange or obscure your tastes there is probably someone somewhere out in the world who is listening right alongside you. Whatever its UI flaws, last.fm has been pretty brilliant at bringing people together and introducing them to otherwise hopelessly obscure music. From what I've been able to gather this Royalties program is a great move. These days is tough as hell to craft a good model of musician payment, especially for off-label or small indie musicians who want to distribute music as widely and freely as possible. It makes me very happy to know that when I play some of my favorite and often unprofitable musicians I will be helping to support them. This is a genuinely good thing.
posted by melissa may at 3:43 PM on January 23, 2008


the latest version of Last.FM still consumes resources and slows performance on my Mac whilst "scrobbling"

iScrobbler is still maintained. I've never downloaded the official client.

Last.FM seems more about finding your tribe than it is about finding new music

Yeah, they added a lot of social-networking bullshit when primping themselves to attract investors. Still, there are years of real listening data in their system. I like looking at the statistically-generated "similar artists" for semi-obscure musicians I'm already familiar with. It's lead me to some good stuff I'd never have heard otherwise. I also like looking at the top tracks of artists I'm checking out as it usually points me to their best material.
posted by D.C. at 4:02 PM on January 23, 2008


LastFM puts together a massive and diverse library of music with a pretty flexible music discovery "engine". I can find music on the basis its similarity to a band, or to a mood or to the preferences of one of my musical "neighbors". I can listen to a stream of music that is as wide as "classical" or as narrow as the few songs I have chosen to put onto my playlist. Alternatively I can just use it to track my listening habits. So far so good in my opinion and I have been watching it gradually improve for about 6 years now.

What makes this announcement significant for me is that it is about bolting on a model for sampling those tracks I like and going on to purchase them. They are doing this in such a way that the artists involved - whether they be a student in a bedsit or somebody represented by a multi-national - are (equitably) rewarded. Finally what I am being asked to buy is either a CD , a non-DRM encumbered file (I predict) or some kind of indirect patronage via a subscription service.

For me this looks, for the first time, like an online music system that begins to get the formula for everything right: I can get my fix of novelty (or just the same old stuff) without having to configure port settings on a firewall or play cat and mouse with idiots from the RIAA - or make up excuses to convince myself that I should not feel guilty about having a copy of somebody else's work in my collection for free - which I might otherwise have bought.

Also the whole process is reasonably usable - quirky yes but certainly superior to bit torrent or, God help my lazy soul, messing around with an actual radio an actual set of unreliable friends and an actual record store to build my music collection
posted by rongorongo at 5:06 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Another vote for iScrobbler. Does the job neatly.
posted by bonaldi at 6:56 PM on January 23, 2008


Pandora seems consistently to pick the most general, boring features of the music I like, instead of the really awesome novel ones.

Thing about Pandora is that you've got to have a strategy. Those of us who know and love her know how to build good stations. Here are some strategies that I've learned :

1) Negative reinforcement only. The more times you give the thumbs-up, the more often you hear repeats. Never give the thumbs-up. Give the thumbs-down to songs you dislike. This will give you the best possible mix of stuff you've heard and stuff you haven't.

2) Have a staging station. If you've heard of a new band, but don't know their stuff too well yet, put them in your staging station. Once you've heard them a few times, you'll have a good idea of whether or not you want to add them to your real station. If you add them to your station before listening to them, you might screw up your station.

3) Use lots of seed bands, but be careful which ones you pick. Make sure they balance each other out. Otherwise, your station will be too scattershot and won't gestalt properly.

4) Restart every few hours. Don't know why, but after a few hours Pandora becomes less reliable. Restart her whenever she starts to get too "out there."

Follow my advice, and you'll never go wrong.

And in case you're looking for something to listen to, here is my latest station. Sort of a dream pop/shoegaze thing. Enjoy!
posted by Afroblanco at 7:11 PM on January 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


srboisvert et al have it right: the UI sux.

The reason I never listen to last.fm is that is impossible to friggin use. The site is too massive and complex. Ug.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:14 PM on January 23, 2008


srboisvert, the sad thing is that I know someone who was supposed to work on their site and due to Last.fm comically mismanaging his visa status ended up getting deported and working for Apple.
posted by cali at 10:32 PM on January 23, 2008


I'm a big fan of last.fm. I use it every day and it has almost completely replaced any other form of web-based radio for me (radioio 90's still gets the odd listen).

The best way to discover new music that you like is to find last.fm users who have a low or medium match to your musical tastes and play their radio streams for an hour or so. It's amazing how many new bands/artists/songs you find.

The playlist sharing feature is cool too. I find the "at least 15 tracks by 15 different artists" rule to be inline with how I used to make mixtapes.
posted by Foaf at 11:31 PM on January 23, 2008


So now that this thread has wound down, how about Metafilter Scrobblers making an active attempt to knock Radiohead and the Beatles out of the top spots?

We should all pick a track to listen to every day for a month.
posted by drezdn at 10:01 AM on January 25, 2008


an active attempt to knock Radiohead and the Beatles out of the top spots

I'm in favor of this. Also, from the mefi top albums page it looks as though it wouldn't be too hard to bump In the Aeroplane Over the Sea or Doolittle up a few notches.
posted by whir at 11:55 AM on January 25, 2008


An active attempt to knock Beatles and Radiohead off will fail due to regression to the mean. That's why groups like BEREP, which has a pretty decent radio station, still has Beatles and Radiohead up there. The only way to do it is a concerted effort to pick some other bands and artificially inflate them.

And I can say all this as someone who has never had Radiohead or the Beatles in the top ten of any week of music listening since I signed up.
posted by klangklangston at 12:18 PM on January 25, 2008


I figure we can start small by trying to knock them down in the charts for the week (at least individual tracks)... It looks like we'd only need to listen to a song 40 times to accomplish this.
posted by drezdn at 2:39 PM on January 25, 2008


That's a great idea. We can basically take a completely obscure but great band and get them exposure. Needs some organization though. Anyhow, I've finally tried this service and the statistics it generates are pretty cool. Also it makes it easy to find good band/album images to load into itunes/ipod artwork.
posted by Skygazer at 11:26 AM on January 29, 2008


And I can say all this as someone who has never had Radiohead or the Beatles in the top ten of any week of music listening since I signed up.

Klang...you are too damned cool to live.
posted by Skygazer at 11:28 AM on January 29, 2008


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