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It is no secret that music makes life better. It can completely transform our daily experiences and alter our moods. It can enhance activities, especially ones that are not all too pleasant, to begin with. With the right playlist going, work becomes more bearable. Exercise becomes less painful. And boredom becomes entertaining.
Of course, I am not telling you anything that you did not already know yourself: music is the soundtrack we need in order to survive. It is truly the universal language, one that is capable of cutting deeper and more viscerally than any combination of words and sentence structures. It is a language that is, quite literally, felt. The language of the heart.
This is why there is no shortage of music streaming services, sites, and apps to choose from in our unique digital age. Which, on the one hand, is a beautiful thing – we have an abundance of options to choose from and different ways in which we can experience music. But it is also, on the other hand, a bit frustrating – perhaps we have too many choices, which means that it can be somewhat overwhelming to sift through them all and choose the one that is going to be right for us.
And that is the key component here. With many of these apps, the issue is less about whether one is better than the other because most of them (at least the well-known ones) are all meticulously crafted with the intent to be widely used. The better way to approach this conundrum, however, is to ask the following question: which music streaming service is right for me? Once you begin thinking about them in more personal terms, then the act of choosing a music streaming service becomes easier.
What do you value in a music streaming app? What features do you think would benefit your personal listening habits the most? Are you looking for the highest number of songs to choose from? Perhaps exclusive content is high up on your list? If so, you might be best matched with, let’s say, Tidal.
Do you enjoy personalized playlists that have been generated by a complex (and highly intelligent algorithm) in order to discover new music? If so, Spotify might be the app for you. Finding the right streaming service, at the end of the day, is all about figuring out what you prefer and then finding out which site caters to those demands.
Maybe you have one of those personalities that people often refer to as “type-A.” You like charts, graphs, and being able to visualize data. You might like to be aware of an intricate breakdown of what you tend to listen to. Maybe the best part of using Spotify, if you’ve done so, in your opinion, is the end of the year recap of your listening habits.
Perhaps you also like to know what others around the world are listening to. If this sounds at all like you, I may have the perfect music streaming service match for you to meet. Allow me to introduce you to Last.fm.
Last.fm, as it exists today, was the result of merging two previously separate websites: Last.fm (appropriately enough) and Audioscrobbler. The two sites became one in 2005.
Audioscrobbler was originally a school project completed by Richard Jones while attending the University of South Hampton School of Electronics and Computer Science in the UK. Jones defined the term “scrobbling” as discovering, processing, and distributing numerical information involving people, music, and more.
Last.fm, however, was founded by four music lovers from Germany and Austria in 2002 – Felix Miller, Martin Stiksel, Michael Breidenbruecker, and Thomas Willomitzer. It was meant to be an online radio station and a musically oriented social network on which similar music profiles would be used to generate personalized playlists. The site quickly rose to acclaim, winning Europix in 2002 and nabbing a nomination for the Prix Arts Electronica in 2003.
In 2003, the Audioscrobbler and Last.fm teams began to work closely together, figuring that the two technologies could perfectly compliment the other. Last.fm became integrated with Audioscrobbler profiles and vice versa. Eventually, an Audioscrobbler plugin was officially added to the Last.fm website. And the final step of the merger took place on August 9th, 2005, when the Audioscrobbler domain name was fully rolled into Last.fm.
Today, Last.fm stands a whole new site thanks to the beautiful integration of Audioscrobbler’s visual data capabilities. A brand-new site unlike any other to come before it has emerged … a form of radio to end all radio. The true last FM station you’ll ever need.
When you arrive on Last.fm, it will immediately become clear that the people who designed this site are experts in their craft. It is visually stunning … Last.fm manages to be extremely easy to navigate and intuitive while also looking unlike any other music streaming site on the web. Everything is very clearly defined, cleanly organized, and intuitive. Plus, an understated black, white, and red theme to the layout give the site a sleek and professional look.
Another thing that I like about Last.fm is the fact that the audio player lives in a very narrow bar, ever at the top of the page, no matter where you venture on Last.fm. It sits locked into the site menu bar, conveniently displaying what you’re listening to at the moment, as well as the ability to pause and skip forward, backward, or “love” a track.
To the right of this, you’ll find everything else you need to skip around to the various sections of the site: Home, Live, Music, Charts, Events, Features, and your account options. As far as in-browser music streaming sites are concerned, I don’t believe I’ve found a better-designed one yet.
Last.fm has several features that make it unique among the myriad music streaming services out there to choose from. The first thing that stands out, in my mind, is just how social the site is. A part social network, part music streaming service, Last.fm is truly a unique blend of all our favorite online past times.
Your Last.fm profile acts, as they describe it on the site, as “…your musical calling card.” The site goes on to say, “When someone asks, ‘What music are you into?’, your profile has all the answers; your all-time top 10, your favorite new release, or that track you’ve had on repeat all week. It’s everything you really listen to.”
They bolster this social emphasis by reminding potential users that Last.fm makes it possible to connect with like-minded music lovers by linking up with their profiles. This way, in a unique to Last.fm twist, you can actually discuss your favorite artists, albums, festivals, tracks, etc. with other members of the Last.fm community.
But outside of the social aspects, Last.fm, as I touched upon earlier, also allows you to visually represent your listening habits in fun, informative, and easy to grasp ways – providing you with accurate insights into where exactly you fall on the musical spectrum.
Desktop and Mobile Experience
Unfortunately, there is not a full-fledged Last.fm app on which you can listen to music. There is a Last.fm Audioscrobbler app, however, which allows you to view your listening data. But it doesn’t do much outside of that. It’s unfortunate, too, because a fully functional app is really all that Last.fm needs to push them to the top of the music streaming services list, in my opinion.
Pricing and Plans
Last.fm offers two options: the free, basic service and Last.fm Pro. The paid subscription service is one of the cheapest on the market, at only $3.00 per month. However, it is important to note that Last.fm doesn’t have quite as many songs available as, say, Spotify. For that $3.00 charge per month, you get ad-free listening and browsing, as well as tons of advanced data and “scrobbling” options not available to free users. Oh, and 30% off all Last.fm merch – not a bad deal, if you ask me!
Suggestions that I have for Last.fm
Dear Last.fm: please, for the love of God, please develop and roll out an app ASAP! I love Last.fm service and all that it offers, so my largest complaint is the fact that I can’t enjoy that experience everywhere I go!
All in all, Last.fm definitely has the potential to become the best streaming service on the planet. They have all the foundations already there – a great site design/layout, fun and interesting cross-section of music, data, and social networking, and the brand recognition for expansion. It is still a great service as of now, don’t get me wrong, but I would love to see it grow and evolve in the years to come!