Music to your ears: A blagger’s guide to Last.fm

Last.fm?! I hear you shriek in dismay, what’s that?! Should I ‘have’ it? What aren’t you telling me?!?!?

These are just a few of the panicked questions I hope to answer.

I’m not a Last.fm legend by any means, in fact currently my apparent number of listened to tracks stands at a measly four thousand, but I think it’s an excellent Web 2.0 resource, and anyone who calls themselves a music lover should check it out.

Last.fm, first and foremost, is a website (http://www.last.fm) which keeps track of what music YOU listen to, as well as suggesting new music you might enjoy. All you have to do is sign up and let your media player know what your Last.fm details are (personally I’d recommend Songbird, but more on that later) and away you go!

The site itself began when two of its founders, Felix Miller and Martin Stiksel, who were running an online record label to promote new and unknown bands, joined up with Richard Jones, who was tracking his and his friends’ listening habits using a program called Audioscrobbler, to bring their projects together in 2005 to create Last.fm as we know it today.

The site itself says it’s:

“about making music culture more democratic: everyone listening to music how they want to, when they want to. Without a middle man making your decisions for you.”

Bizarrely, it actually pulls this off, creating a playlist for you of recommended music even if you chose one band. But hang on, how can we know that the site doesn’t just push bands which pay it more money? The truth is we can’t ever know for sure, but it’s easy to believe that it really isn’t all about the money with this site, simply from the wide range of new music available.

There are some drawbacks however, you need to have an audio player which talks nicely to the site in order for your music to show (luckily most major ones are already compatible) and if you are away from your computer and just fancy some music you can go on there, but you can’t listen through all the tunes from a certain band, instead the site offers similar bands after the first track, which can become irritating.

Providing you have the right media player though, actually using the site is a piece of cake, since everything is automated, so you can go on and find out just how worryingly addicted to Less Than Jake you are.

Songbird, the free open source player from the Firefox crew, Mozilla, has just released its 1.0.0 version, so it’s early days, but it is one of the most customizable music players in existence, offering countless add-ons for everything from Album art to quizzes and, naturally, full Last.fm scrobbling (that’s shoving the songs you’re listening to on the site by the by).

So, there you have it. Last.fm is a tool, but a fun one, and when coupled with one of the most versatile media players ever conceived there really has never been a better time to be a music fan.

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Now playing: Manic Street Preachers – Send Away The Tigers

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