How and Why I Use Last.FM

At the behest of David Thompson, I’m writing this entry on how and why I use Last.FM.

How I Use Last.FM

The how I use it comes down to a few mechanical things:

  1. I use the various iTunes plugins—the Windows version on my office PC, and the Mac version at home.
  2. I seed Last.FM with music almost 24/7 at the office.
  3. I use the Last.FM Mac player to listen to music at home. [I fired it up just as I started this entry, in fact. I’m listening to the Similar Artists radio for Sufjan Stevens, just for my own amusement.]

How I Use Last.FM’s iTunes Plugins

This one is pretty straight forward: just grab the plugin and install it. Both are dead simple to use, and only require an account—which is free—to get set up. As you can see from my user page, I’ve been an Last.FM user since Nov 2004—actually, I was using Audioscrobbler for most of that time. Only lately have I come around to Last.FM, and really only since I got my Mac at home. [More on that later.]

How I Seed Last.FM with Data

I have the luxury of having an office machine on a nice, stable network at the office that I can run 24/7. [There is a business case for me running it 24/7; from time to time, I do analysis runs for co-workers on my machine during off-peak hours. The rest of the time, I run BOINC.] As long as I have network connectivity and power—after power instability fried my last hard drive and impaired me, I spent the money to buy my own UPS; it’s mine and not corporate’s, but it’s saved me lots of frustration and saved me from losing time at work redoing stuff, so that’s a positive!—and iTunes doesn’t get buggy on me and crash, I’m seeding data.

I use a variety of iTunes playlists; ever since Dougal Campbell shared his iTunes playlist sets in a comment on my Weblog, I’ve adapted his suggestions to my own needs. I’ll probably post that list tomorrow; I tweaked it a bit more today in an effort to have it be the sole source for my iPod. Suffice it to say that, 95% of the time during non-business hours, it’s on one of two playlists: Radio Airtime [the aforementioned playlist], or my Recently Added playlist that’s a component of the Radio Airtime family. [Tonight, I left it on Recently Added; I’ll probably switch back to Radio Airtime for the Christmas weekend. That, or it’ll be on my Christmas Music playlist. :)]

How I Use the Last.FM Player

Given that I seed data regularly and that trying to seed from work and home triggers Last.FM’s spam protection, I let myself traverse the musical neighborhoods of artists I like while I’m at home, using the Last.FM Player. I am in a re-evalution phase with how I execute my never-ending Great CD Preservation Project at home thanks to my acquisition of a Mac mini.

Using the Artist Neighborhood is a fun option, as many artists have signed up for free streaming of their msic with Last.FM. It really is like having your own radio station—which, of course, you actually do with Last.FM as well. [Interested in hearing what I listen to? Check out gfmorris radio.] I end up getting to listen to artists that I’ve heard folks talk about, and sometimes I find some hidden gems.

Why I Use Last.FM

I use Last.FM in three ways:

  1. Evaluating friends’ musical tastes.
  2. Finding out about new artists.
  3. Ego.

Evaluating Friends’ Musical Tastes

As I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times, I run The Rumor Forum @ [rocksmyfaceoff.net], the message board for fans of Caedmon’s Call, Derek Webb, and the artist community that largely surrounds them. We have a Music Board, and the discussions there can get pretty … intense. After a couple of years there, I slowly came to the realization that there were just some people with whom I agreed musically, and others who I just didn’t. I’m of the opinion that I’d rather just like to see whose tastes agree with mine, so I know to trust their opinion more. [Yes, I am actually claiming an axiom I normally mock: “The level of a man’s intelligence is the degree to which he agrees with me.” That said, I’m just looking for music I like.]

That was actually my inspiration for firing up Audioscrobbler in the first place, thanks to the urgings of Andrew Thomas, to whom I am indebted. [He helped me overcome initial resistance to outsourcing my music metadata to someone else. I was dead wrong about the idea.] After some time, I came to find that two of my friends—Jeff Holland and Katey Orr—were my two strongest peers in terms of musical taste. Now, when either of them talks about music, I listen. Many of the .net folks are on Last.FM; we have our own group.

Finding New Artists

I’m forever finding new artists because of Last.FM. Two artists I now really dig—Hem and Sufjan Stevens—were largely influenced by Last.FM. Because of Audioscrobbler/Last.FM, I had reason to believe that I’d like what I’d be buying, and I was right. In listening extensively to both, I’m buttressing the response of my musical neighbors and concurrently moving into the neighborhoods of those who share my interests in these artists. As the old line goes from Star Trek, “Your uniqueness will be added to our own.”

Last.FM portrays itself as fomenting the “social music revolution”. In creating tools to help music fans find each other simply by doing what they love to do most—listen to and write about music—they’ve succeeded.

Ego

No doubt, sharing my musical taste on Last.FM is an ego-driven thing. I’m okay with admitting that to you. But this is one of those situations where my own self-interests actually help the community—it’s a well-crafted system.

So, there you have it: how and why I use Last.FM. Do you use it? Why or why not? How do you use it? Have I made you think about using it differently? How do you think I could use it differently? [Maybe you think I should journal stuff there.]