Intrigued by Read,Write,Web's post on Last.fm creating communities around content, I decided as an experiment to set up an account, start using it, and see whether I should believe the hype. My perception going in was that Last.fm was a streaming internet radio site, where users could get music streamed to them based on listening preferences and history.
Unique to Last.fm is the concept of what they call "scrobbling". This means the Last.fm desktop tool keeps track of, or 'scrobbles' what songs you play on your computer via either iTunes or Windows Media Player. As it scrobbles, Last.fm also makes recommendations of groups you may want to join within the community who listen to similar music, and 'friends' or members who like the same artist, song, or genre. While you are listening to a song, you have the option to indicate whether you love or wish to ban the track they recommended. You may also tag the song or add it to your personal playlist.
What I like about Last.fm is the UI. The page layout on the tool is very intuitive with just the right amount of buttons and graphics. Compared to Pandora, they hands down have the coolest blog and social media widgets, featuring thumbnails of albums and allowing you to choose the color of the buttons. Last.fm is also compatible with other social networking communities like Facebook, Myspace, and others so you can
add the same widgets to your Facebook profile to share music.
Here's where I fell out of love with Last.fm.
After playing about 100 songs straight from iTunes to be 'scrobbled', I thought I was ready to add a Last.fm widget showing my preferences, tracks,etc. Wrong. I was repeatedly told "You haven't scrobbled enough music yet" to have a widget. What? Other times, I was told the music I played couldn't be added to my playlist because it was "badly tagged". Um, why is this my problem? So I go to work tagging my wayward songs, only to be told later some of them are 'unstream-able'. Despite the fact all four major record labels have a deal with Last.fm, not all songs are allowed to be streamed, or played on the site.
Ok, at this point I'm beginning to feel like an unpaid search engine optomization analyst.
I know! I'll play my newly formed radio station "Kristasphere Hot97" right?
As you play, scrobble, and tage your music you also build this personal 'internet radio station' which plays only music you like. I'm guaranteed never to hear "Unwritten" by Natasha Beddingfield? Hey I'm sold! The catch is, you have to pay to listen to your own station! Granted it is only $3 a month, but I have a philosophical problem with paying a fee after I've tagged, scrobbled, and loved or banned my heart out.
Being an Interactive Marketing practitioner and grad student, I know all this tagging, scrobbling, and community data(also known as Customer Generated Media) is like pure gold to the record companies and Last.fm. With the advent of sampling and collaborations on songs, I "get" what a tangled web clearing song rights can be.
I've been advised by the 'shade tree social music guild' to give it a couple more weeks. which I will do in the spirit of an experiment. Right now I'm not seeing how this trumps my iPod and iTunes.
Saturday, March 8, 2008