The first song I ever “scrobbled” was, apparently, “Outdoor Miner” by Wire. That was 2006, several years after Last.fm made its debut. This year the service turns 20, having never quite lived up to its promise after being acquired by CBS.
In its prime, Last.fm tried its hand at being a social network and tried to make connections between people with similar listening habits. It’ll still show you the compatibility with other users, but has taken its foot off the gas in trying to foster conversations between users.
The site offers a pro feature for $3 a month, but its perks aren’t very compelling. In fact, CBS’ tenure has been more marked by features removed, like its custom radio and streaming services. Instead Last.fm has tied itself to Spotify and quietly pokes users to sign up for the Pro account. (Has anyone subscribed to this? Seeing any value?)
It seems to exist in kind of a limbo, still chugging along but doing very little to call attention to itself or offer a compelling reason for users to visit. I look at my stats sometimes, or go back to see what I was listening to last year, five years ago, ten years ago…
A scrapbook of listening habits
Since February 2006, I’ve averaged 20 scrobbles per day for a grand total of more than 123,000 songs logged via the service.
My music tastes have evolved a bit since 2006. The past few years have seen Khruangbin, Reptaliens, Automatic, Mega Drive, MASTER BOOT RECORD, Dance With The Dead, and Mdou Moctar creeping up the top 50. Robyn Hitchcock would be in the top 3, easily, if Last.fm knew to combine all the permutations of his bands over the years. (Sadly, it counts “Robyn Hitchcock,” “Robyn Hitchcock and The Egyptians,” “Robyn Hitchcock ‘n the Egyptians,” and so forth as separate artists.)
The all-time top 20 won’t surprise anybody who’s ridden in the car with me, starting with The Beatles and ending with Concrete Blonde. It’s not a fully representative sample of what I listen to, some years I’ve not bothered to connect my media player to the site much, and it doesn’t capture vinyl plays or what I listen to on CD, etc.
The Verge and a few other sites picked up the anniversary but I haven’t seen much fuss from Last.fm itself. I wonder sometimes whether the site has enough subscribers to sustain it, or if the ads generate enough revenue, or if the aggregate data has enough marketing value to keep the lights on. Obviously, it’s still working. For now. (For folks who want to capture listening data without CBS in the mix, there’s ListenBrainz and other options. Topic for another day…)
Seems to me the site is full of wasted potential. Maybe with Twitter shedding users they could consider another go at turning the site into a social network for music fans.