Last.fm, one of my favorite online music recommendation and listening services, today announced a website relaunch. The London-based company has added four new features: Events system (e.g. concerts), Free MP3s, Flash player radio, and a Taste-o-meter. Last.fm hopes these new features, plus the re-design, will make it easier to find and share music - as well as being turned on to the latest live music in your area.
The Last.fm team sent me some quick stats about the site:
- 15 million unique active users per month
- 350 million times a month people tell Last.fm what tracks they listen to - in other words, Last.fm users submit 12 million daily track submissions
- 65 million different tracks in the music database
- 7 million different artists
- Over 200 countries are represented in the community with US, UK, Germany, Canada leading the pack
- Last.fm has around 150,000 artist wikis and there are around 350,000 different music tags (genres, moods of music).
- Unlike many online music networks, Last.fm connects to 30+ MP3 players – not just iTunes and iPod
Last.fm connects to a lot of things in the online music ecosystem, which is part of its strategy to support "the iPod economy." According to the press release:
"Built as an open source platform, Last.fm is designed for support on all media players including iTunes, Windows Media Player, Winamp, xBox, TiVo, mobile phones, Slim devices, Launchcast, Yahoo Music Engine and even Pandora. Listeners can link their media players to Last.fm to share songs, statistics and playlists with the Last.fm community. Last.fm’s scrobbling function pays attention to what users are listening to—not just what is listed in their library—and suggests artists, people, and concerts based on their musical preferences. You can even post charts and listening habits to your blog or MySpace and have Last.fm update them automatically. Select a chart from a variety of user-submitted styles or customize your own."
The new features
A little about the new features. The Flash player radio is significant, because it means no download is necessary to use Last.fm. When I first started using Last.fm a year or two ago, I had to download a desktop app. But because Flash is all but ubiquitous on the Web, new users can start using Last.fm straight away. This will surely drive usage up for Last.fm and also an online media application is one of the best ways to utilize Flash. (note: the player wasn't working when I tested it)
Last.fm, if you haven't come across it before, works in a similar way to Pandora. It has predictive software, which pays attention to what you like and dislike and plays new songs based on your selections. You can also recommend tracks to friends, add tags, tell the system you don't like a song, or simply skip ahead to the next track.
The free MP3s is also a compelling new feature. Last.fm says it has hundreds of thousands of free MP3s and they can be easily downloaded to iTunes or any mp3 player.
The events feature is a nice tie-in to 'the real world' - a theme we're seeing more and more of as mobile Web hits the mainstream. Last.fm suggests concerts based on where you live and what you and your friends listen to. You can then get tickets by following a link to one of Last.fm’s ticket reseller partners. Updates are also posted directly to your user page.
As for the Taste-o-meter, Last.fm is marketing this as a way to "find your musical soulmate." Essentially it lets users find compatible people with similar music tastes. It does this by assigning users a "musical compatibility score". This has the potential to work well for young single people and is a nice complement to the events feature.
All these new features are great and make Last.fm one of the most compelling online music products on the Web right now. It looks like they're ramping up the social aspects (events, Taste-o-meter), which plays to their overall goal of being one of the top social music communities. The online music space, or iPod economy to use their phrase, is growing nearly as rapidly as the online video scene. So Last.fm is well positioned to gain more young users in particular with this re-design.
If there is one downside to Last.fm currently, it's that I sometimes have trouble connecting to the service. Indeed while I was testing out the new features this afternoon, I couldn't connect to the radio. So performance issues must be addressed (obviously). Apart from that though, I really like last.fm and will continue to use it along with Pandora. I use both because there really isn't a lot of difference for me, although I expect these upgrades by Last.fm to appeal in particular to the younger MySpace-using demographic