James Cridland

Mmm, last.fm

I’m getting addicted, I think. To the wonders of last.fm.

What’s interesting is that I’m not particularly a music fan. But, more and more, I find myself enjoying all kinds of music from this service.

Last.fm is not for the faint-hearted. It takes a ridiculous amount of listening to your own music to educate the system as to what music you like - over 200 tracks, or over thirteen hours of music. But once you do, it’s quite impressive - the system knows what you like, and hitting ‘recommend radio’ will play more that it thinks you’ll like.

Coming home tonight, I didn’t fancy the television, and sat down to go through the Google Reader list - confusingly, I’ve got it to simultaneously insist it has nothing more for me to read, and that I’ve over 100 unread items - to the accompaniment of last.fm. I started off with a ‘cover’ station: I rather enjoy listening to different cover versions, and have discovered the benefit of last.fm’s tagging facility. Then it was off to recommendation radio, a list of recommended tracks from the last.fm community (most of which appear to be really rather offball tonight). And now it’s my own personal station, songs I’m comfortable with.

Of course, I can only get this musical choice - devoid of advertising and DJ witter - at the end of an internet connection. When out walking, in the car, or in the bath, I don’t get access to it. Yet.

But all that will surely change at some point.

I wonder what happens to music radio - pure music radio - when that happens? The real talents of the broadcasting world, the Wogans, O’Connells, Moyles’s, they’ll be fine. But what happens to the competent DJ - the instantly forgettable daytime presenter on your local radio station, who does nothing but read the sponsorship credits and pleads with you not to switch off during the next overly-long ad break? How long do these people have, before services like last.fm, Pandora, et al, replace them? After all, with these online services, I can have the actual music I want - with new and surprising tracks (I’ve just been served up Wilco, a band I never thought I’d ever go for, and rather enjoyed it).

In the car over the weekend, incidentally, I listened to a bit of Capital Radio. One eager presenter told me with great fanfare that I had just been listening to some song or other, and he had a name, and he was on Capital Radio, and he was on till 4pm or something, and now I was listening to Oasis, “…and THIS is the Masterplan”. No shit, sherlock. Now, tell me something interesting: because I tell you what, with that kind of vacuous rubbish, wireless internet in my car couldn’t come far enough.