This post is especially for Hannah but others might like to read about the basics of Last.fm (at least as far as I understand them).

Hannah asked in a previous comment, "explain again how this works. is this when you listen to music on your laptop or on your ipod?"

Last.fm offers a lot of stuff for music listeners. I'll explain what I use it for and then describe some of its other offerings. First, I opened up a free account with them, creating a "profile". Once this profile was set up, I downloaded two things: 1) the audioscrobbler plug-in; and 2) the last.fm music player.

The Audioscrobbler Plug-in - This is a little plug-in for one's music player of choice (I use iTunes). The plug-in will keep track of the songs I listen to using iTunes and send that information to my last.fm profile, thus recording my listening habits, or at least my listening habits on my computer. I have a plug-in on my laptop, which I use to listen to stuff at home. I also have installed a plug-in on my work computer, which I use to listen to the music on my iPod while at work. Both plug-ins send song info to the same dcspinks profile at last.fm. I am not sure how the plug-in could keep track of what I listen to exclusively through my iPod (which lately I rarely do), but I think it might be possible. I can then go to the last.fm webpage, login, and take a look at my listening habits. That's where most of my top ten list came from.

I say "most" because I also like to use the the last.fm player that I downloaded onto both computers as well. This is a little player that will play streaming music from the last.fm site (they have thousands of streamable artists!). They actually call it a Radio. Any time I listen to something on the last.fm player, the information is sent to my profile and thus calculated into my listening habits. The thing I like about this little player is its ability to let me do two things:

1) I can start a station by typing in a favorite artist and then the player will stream music that is similar to that artist. The cool thing is that the player estimates what is "similar" not by comparing artists based upon some sort of description or genre, but rather it scans its vast database and notes what else is being listened to by the people who listen to the artist I typed in. So if I want to listen to artists similar to say Sufjan Stevens, I type in his name and last.fm streams music that other Sufjan fans listen to (based on their listening habits that are being recorded by their audioscrobbler plug-in). This method, I have found, is a great way to discover new artists, or listen to artists that I have long neglected. It is cool too that the stream is highly eclectic; its not all a Sufjan-like sound.

2) Also, if I am browsing around last.fm, I can click links of artists, tags (user-created genres, kind of like tags in Flickr), other users, etc., and the last.fm player will stream music of similar artists, within a tag, or music that other users are listening to.

These are the basic things I do with last.fm. I usually just listen to music as normal, and then from time to time I go to my last.fm profile to see what it is I have been listening to. It keeps up with overall information and weekly information. It will chart my most-listened-to artists and tracks. I love it! If you want to see the most recent charts of my listening habits you can click the "What have I been listening to?" link under the "who am i?" section. I also found a neat application that I downladed and put on my blog. It goes into my last.fm profile and notes what is the current track being played and displays that track on my blog. See the little gray box in the same area.

I suppose if I wanted I could use some of the other features. There are endless possibilities with tags. I notice many people create personalized tags for music they want to explore (and possibly buy at a later date). So I could search for an artist I have read about and then tag that artist with something like "Spinks-explore" and then once this tag is built up a little I could listen to a stream of those artists. Last.fm also offers a journal where I could make notes, write reviews, etc. I could take the time to join groups and discuss music. I could make friends with users who have similar listening habits. There's a lot one can do.

Hope that helps some. The best thing to do is go to the site and take the short tour.

Just for fun, my top ten artists for the week of Oct 16 to Oct 23:
Death Cab for Cutie
Sufjan Stevens
Cat Power
Billy Joel
The Shins
Alan Jackson
Paris Combo
The Beatles

P.S. last.fm is a british thing, so that makes it instantly hip!


chief gordon said...

i heard the shins are no good live. can anyone confirm or deny?

Chris Spinks said...

our resident music expert, john eddy, says that the shins are okay in concert; nothing great. he's seen them more than once, so they must have been good enough to do it again.

gail said...

unfortunately, john will no longer be our "resident". he will be moving near UCLA tomorrow (his birthday!). it will be a bittersweet departure for all of us, but we're happy he will be closer to school--no more fighting LA freeways!

hannah said...

wow chris! thank you so much for all of this info. i have been so busy with halloween crafting this last week that i had not been doing much blog reading. as an afterthought i decided to see if you had commented in response. i'd say so!

ps. british? count me in!