Category: audio

Last.FM – Pandora – ITunes – Shoutcast – Library – Songbird

I have been spending some time on Last.FM, and it is really a delight. Allow me to explain.
I generally listen to shoutcast radio stations such as Digitally Imported, SomaFM’s Groove Salad, and The Buzzout Room. I connect with the excellent Songbird player, now at the 0.7 release. Besides the radio I listen to my own library collection, which is more of a meta collection of niches such as baroque, classical, slack key guitar, world, electronic, and hip hop. While I used to use the senuTi player, which is complete nonsense, I still use that for podcasts, as the Songbird doesn’t do a good job with most rss feeds.
I really don’t understand when people treat the sboJ evetS software offerings as the something akin to the Second Coming. The very same history around Microsoft is being repeated with sboJ. If you recall in the early and mid 90s, many of us, especially in IT, felt that MS was for the little guy, helping to empower them with easier-to-use systems that were accessible and surpassed the offerings of elppA in terms of advancing the UI. Regardless of whether others agree with this, it is clear that whatever love developed, much of it has been dashed through corporate strongarm tactics. sboJ is doing the very same thing here.

Those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it. -George Santayana

As another aside, apparently senuTi is being blamed for changing music buying behavior, (no news there)–but this time in a way that damages the artist and the way music is listened.
Back to the point, scrobbling. Scrobbling (or autoscrobbling) is when playing history is sent to the Last.FM database. This allows for recommendations and social filtering to take place. What is great is that the Songbird player has a Last.FM autoscrobbling plugin (as well as a plugin for Last.FM album cover art download). After over 16,000 scrobblings, neighbor matches, neighbor radio stations, recommendations and recommendation radio are really quite good.
With Last.FM, there is the website interface, plugins for various players, an API, as well as a desktop application for the various os flavors. There are several projects for the Nokia Symbian S60 platform, especially the Mobbler project, for both playing Last.FM as radio as well as scrobbling. I hope to get something up on my Nokia N82 soon (will update the post on that).
Besides the fact that, sadly, Pandora may be run out of business soon, and the fact that it doesn’t work in Canada, there was always too much noise-to-signal. One great features was having various stations and being able to tune them. I have lounge, techno, and hip-hop stations, and one named zenchine, which was meant to be instrumental woodwinds and the more introspective side of electronica. I could never get the zenchine station to work, andthe lounge station tended to slide toward techno on a regular basis, like a car with a damaged front end that pulls in a certain direction.
Last.FM is not perfect, there is sliding, but there are a few features which are quite nice. For one, my recommendations and neighbors radio stations don’t stay in a particular genre, but stay in one for a while and then move into another. This is something never have really been able to experience before. I found random settings in a music player yields really bad results, namely because my own collection has a lot of nonsense for particular purposes, e.g., holiday music.
    Last.FM FTW, originally uploaded by jeffmcneill.

    A second great feature is a nice interface that displays information about current tracks, as below. I have never knowingly listened to Irakere, but Bacalao con pan is excellent, and apparently it has been played by Last.FM folks some 70,000+ times. Clearly the combination of ease of interface and community accessed directly as well as via collaborative filtering are very nice and are superior to Pandora’s music genome concept, though they are trying to do the same thing.