10,000 songs: last.fm
the basic premise of last.fm is this: create an account there, then download a plug-in for whatever media player you use on your computer (i use itunes). the plug-in technology that last.fm have developed is called 'audioscrobbler'. the scrobbler plug-in sends the names of the tracks you are listening to in realtime to the last.fm server. last.fm then displays to the world what you are listening to, and creates personal charts for you - showing your top 10 artists for the week, month, all-time etc.
based on your listening habits, last.fm then matches you with 'neighbours' - people who have similar listening tastes. there are also online groups based around various themes, and you are free to start up or join any of these groups. each group comes with a forum and combined listening charts of its members.
so for example, it is possible to get combined charts for all the last.fm users who live in new zealand. as i write this, the most listened to artist amongst nz last.fm users last week was muse - followed by red hot chili peppers, radiohead, tool and the beatles. there are 4,358 last.fm users who live in nz (there are 326,421 users in the states, 100,115 users in the uk and 24,127 users in australia).
for me, the main attraction of belonging to last.fm is a bizarre and somewhat simple-minded fascination with seeing the songs i am listening to magically appear on the internet as i am listening to them... i can't even describe, much less convince you, how exciting this is.
the second great thing is seeing my weekly charts - i think i take them as a kind of summary of my level of 'cool'. although i realise this is very arbitrary, seeing as everyone thinks that the music they listen to is cool. my charts are also an indication of my musical taste identity.
the third reason i like last.fm is that i can see what my friends (the ones that are also members of last.fm) are listening to. it satisfies my curiosity, but it can also lead me to discovering new music because i know how my taste compares with my friends.
this of course brings me to the fourth reason why i like last.fm - i can discover new music. this is done by looking at my friends' charts (as i've said), by looking at my neighbours' charts and also through the music recommendations that last.fm offers based on your listening habits. last.fm also includes an online recommendations radio tailored to your taste (plus a range of other features) but i've never really got into this.
so here we have a very clever web concept which no doubt provides very valuable marketing tools and statistics to the music industry, but also provides a fascinating and useful user experience. when you consider the complexity of a system that is logging and processing stats to this level, the service works very well - there are occasional glitches but i think we can excuse them. in the time i have been a member the service has improved dramatically, along with growth which probably even took the site's creators by surprise. 10,000 songs later it gets a big thumbs up from me.
go and join up and when you do add hooseyfloot as a friend...
on the headphones: 'vertigo' by u2, from the album 'how to dismantle an atomic bomb'.