Sunday, 24 August 2008

Rediscovering Music with Last.fm


You know when you find a website that just takes your breath away... well Last.fm has done that for me. It's a music social networking web 2.0 site thingamyjig. It's basically a music website that allows you to listen to vast amounts of music for free*. The clever "scrobbling" software behind the scenes tracks your tastes and suggests to you other music you might like. As Last.fm exlains itself:

"Millions of songs are scrobbled every day. This data helps Last.fm to organise and recommend music to people; we use it to create personalised radio stations, and a lot more besides."

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. I have managed to discover music that I just hadn't heard before. "Unlimited free, legal music!" you say in complete surprise. Can this be true? No, not exactly. In the process of playing certain tracks to death, I discovered that Last.fm will try and restrict the frequency of access to tracks by only letting you hear 30 second excerpts. Why? *Because they want you to subscribe to the service (£1.50 per month) or buy the track. Okay, so there is an business model beneath the surface but what the heck it's still brilliant! Personally, I think it blows iTunes out of the water.

I went to a gig in 1992 at the Jazz Cafe. Abdullah Ibrahim was playing with a 4-piece band. I thought he was amazing and one particlar track just mesmerized me. After the gig I tried to find the track, but to no avail. I bought a few albums but he is very prolific and the internet didn't exist then. I even resorted to singing the flute melody to staff on the jazz floor of London's Virgin Megastore. They were sympathetic, and highly bemused, but couldn't help. Last.fm helped me discover this track in a matter of minutes. My quest has ended but really it has only just begun. In case you would like to hear this tune here is a link below. It's called "The Mountain" and I believe it is the title track of an eponymous album and with it's oriental themes, should have been the BBC's ident music for the Olympics (or perhaps not, some gem stones are best left undisturbed).

www.last.fm/music/Abdullah+Ibrahim/_/The+Mountain

I have eclectic music tastes as my moniker suggests. I have a penchant for classic rock and was lucky to go and see Led Zeppelin in December 2007 at the O2. Please read my blog entry on the Zep gig if you fancy: eclectictrains.blogspot.com/2008/01/zep-at-o2-belated-tribute.html

But that ain't half the story. I love jazz, blues, Beethoven, Bach, Stravinsky, Mozart, Mahler and am still listening to "London Calling" by The Clash.

I've been meaning to sign up to Last.fm for a while. The company is based near my work - www.xube.co.uk - in the East End of London, I believe, so I feel a kind of parochial pride in it's success. What a great idea!

electictrains @ Last.fm