On March 25, 2004, I tried out a service that was new to me, last.fm, so I could hear some new music via the internet and keep track of what local files I was playing in iTunes. Eight years later, I find I’m using the service more than ever (check out my last.fm profile to see what I’ve been up to all these years). Only a few days ago, the number of songs I had played on the service or sent listening data to the service for had hit 26,000 (a number which seems big until I compare it to some of my friends on the service who have been more devoted users).* This got me thinking about all the reasons why I’ve stuck with last.fm over the years, although I have to admit that my use of it has grown more steady over the years:
1. Creation of an archive of my listening interests
I love that last.fm keeps track of all the songs you played and gives you all sorts of rankings about which artists and songs you’ve listened to over different time spans (last seven days, last month, last three months, last 6 months, last year, overall). I’ve occasionally plugged in my user name to sites and downloaded software that will further analyze and graphically present your listening habits.
2. Other music playing services and software send my listening data to last.fm
Over the years, I’ve sent data to last.fm about what songs I’ve played (what they refer to as “scrobbling”) via iTunes on all my computers and laptops, Pandora, Grooveshark, Amazon Music Player, Spotify, YouTube, the music player on my Android phone, and even the last.fm app I have set up on my Roku player that is connected to my stereo system and TV set. I tend to hop around to different means of playing music; whenever possible, I try to connect it up to last.fm so the data about what I am listening continues to aggregate. The rate at which my listening data has grown has increased over time as I have more options for scrobbling.
3. I have discovered tons of new music from the last.fm social network
I’ve got 81 friends in last.fm, many of whom have tastes that overlap with mine and whose listening profiles that I can view and whose personal radio stations on last.fm I can listen to have led me to new artists that I’ve grown to love.
4. Last.fm is a survivor
The service launched in 2002 shortly after the dot.com bubble burst. It amazes me that the company is still around after 10 years, a long time as far as websites go.
5. The more you use it, the better the recommendation engine gets
With eight years of data in my account, I feel like I get really good recommendations back out of last.fm service. Between all the scrobbling of other music services that I’ve done and all the listening I’ve done within last.fm, the service now has tons of information about what I might like to hear next.
On this 8-year anniversary on last.fm, I decided to finally give back to the service and have started a subscription so I can lose the ads and the occasional interruptions of playback. This bit of anniversary-inflected navel gazing has got me wishing that I had a similar service that would automatically track all the books that I’ve checked out of the library and that I’ve bought from bookstores (and that would like last.fm let me remove individual items from the history for the sake of privacy or better recommendations). Although Netflix will give me recommendations based on what I’ve viewed or rated, and the Zite feed reader app on my iPad will use my ratings of read items to show me relevant and potentially interesting posts from blogs I’m not yet subscribed to, I can’t think of any of other recommender service on the web that has such a rich ecosystem of inputs and that also offers so many ways to show you how and what you consumed.