For all the excitement over streaming services, cloud lockers, Internet radio and newer trends like group listening, one of the biggest sources of music online is a site that was built for other purposes all together. YouTube has become a major repository of music over the years, and its smartphone apps can easily be used as a sort of mobile jukebox.
For users of the social radio and music recommendation service Last.fm, YouTube has always lived on off its own island, unable to be "scrobbled" back to the mothership. A new plugin for Google Chrome fixes that.
Wait, Last.fm? Isn't that service so 2007? It's been awhile since the buzz about Last.fm as an Internet radio service peaked, but for many, it still provides one of the best music recommendation engines out there.
I've been using Last.fm for five years. Every song I ever listened to in iTunes or on my iPod has been noted by Last.fm's servers via the service's scrobbling mechanism. When I joined Spotify this summer, I turned on the Last.fm integration. Between Spotify's library and my local MP3s, I now have immediate access to much more music than ever before, and Last.fm is keeping track of all of it. Well, almost all of it. Sometimes, when a track isn't available on Spotify or SoundCloud, I'll go straight to YouTube and look for it. Quite often, it's there.
By keeping track of my listening habits, Last.fm is able to build out a comprehensive profile of my tastes and then, based on its own algorithm, recommend other artists and songs to me. I've discovered a number of new bands this way. The more third party services I can plug into my Last.fm account, the more complete - and thus useful -this profile will be.
With this Chrome plugin, I can include songs I stream from YouTube in my Last.fm listening history. For many music fans today, this actually comprises a pretty significant chunk of their overall music consumption.
In the past, you could achieve this kind of functionality via Greasemonkey, but this approach is a little more straightforward to implement. The plugin also works with other services like Google Music, Pandora, MySpace and Bandcamp.
The only drawback is that it's browser-based rather than relying on user authentication to tie accounts together. So if you stream tracks from YouTube on your iPhone or Android device, that won't be captured by Last.fm. Still, it's a start.
(h/t to Google Operating System)