Beginner’s guide to Last.fm

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Set 21 2011, 13h26

It seems one of things we do pretty badly is actually explaining what Last.fm is to new users, and how to make the most of it. I find this especially the case with customers who are introduced to Last.fm via hardware devices like the Xbox 360, and various internet radios.

So the purpose of this post is simply to serve as an unofficial reference / introduction tutorial for new users. It's mainly geared towards how to use and influence the radio, but I made a fair stab at explaining scrobbling as well. I apologise in advance if this is overly simplistic - again, this is for people who've just signed up, and have no idea what Last.fm is all about.

If you have any further questions, please read the FAQ and support forums for more information:

http://www.last.fm/help/faq
http://www.last.fm/forum/21713


How to listen to music immediately

Please click here to launch the radio: http://www.last.fm/listen

Enter any artist name or genre into the box and press the play button!

If you're in the UK, US, or Germany, you will get adverts periodically. If you live outside of these countries, you will get a 50 track trial, after which you will need to purchase a subscription here: http://www.last.fm/subscribe

Beginner’s guide to Last.fm

Okay, so you have your account profile on our website here:
http://www.last.fm/user/_

This lists your artist library (http://www.last.fm/user/_/library) and entire listening history (http://www.last.fm/user/_/tracks).

When you play "Your library" radio station, the Last.fm radio will generate a playlist of songs based on the artists and songs listed in your current library. The exact songs you get are determined by several computer algorithms, but 'loved' songs and recently played artists tend to get a higher weighting, and will play more frequently.


How do you influence this?

As it's a radio you can't choose the exact songs you want, but songs you dislike can be skipped, or banned from your library. Tracks you really like can be marked as 'loved' tracks, and, as previously mentioned, these will tend to play more frequently.

In addition, you can increase the selection of music you want to hear by simply adding more artists, albums, and songs to your library. To get you started, we have a recommendations page, which will suggest artists that Last.fm thinks you might like, based on your current library:

http://www.last.fm/home/recs

To add these artists to your library, simply click the grey "+ Add to Library" button underneath the artist name (if you can't see this button, then they're probably already in your library). In addition, on every artist page is a list of "similar artists", which again is another good way of finding and adding new artists to your library.

e.g.

Artist: http://www.last.fm/music/Bruce+Springsteen
Similar artists: http://www.last.fm/music/Bruce+Springsteen/+similar

You can also add specific albums and songs to your library by clicking on the
album/song in question and again clicking "Add to my library".

e.g.

Albums: http://www.last.fm/music/Bruce+Springsteen/+albums
Tracks: http://www.last.fm/music/Bruce+Springsteen/+tracks

Album page: http://www.last.fm/music/Bruce+Springsteen/Born+To+Run
Track pages: http://www.last.fm/music/Bruce+Springsteen/_/Born+To+Run

Please note that only tracks with the 'Play' icon are playable on the website. I personally would recommend adding non-playable tracks and albums anyway, as our catalogue is constantly growing.

Artists and tracks can also be removed from your library, as explained here: http://www.last.fm/help/faq?category=93#160

Finally, you can also listen to genres of music with what we call 'Tags'.
Tags let users label similar kinds of music, or music that is somehow related.

e.g.
http://www.last.fm/charts/toptags
http://www.last.fm/tag/classical
http://www.last.fm/tag/jazz
http://www.last.fm/tag/rock

Almost every artist on Last.fm has been tagged by our members, and by listening to tag radios you can discover more related artists.

e.g.
http://www.last.fm/music/Bruce+Springsteen/+tags
http://www.last.fm/tag/singer-songwriter

And that's the basic premise really - create a library of artists and songs that you love, and Last.fm will continue to suggest more artists to try. You can use it to explore music you already love, or to discover new music that we think you'll love. The more you listen, the more accurate the service becomes.

To recap:

* Listen to music via the radio.
+ Add artists and songs to your library to increase the range of music played.
+ Check out your recommendations and similar artists on the website for more suggestions
+ Mark your favourite songs as 'loved' tracks to hear them more frequently
- Skip and ban songs you dislike to stop them playing, and refine the station
- Remove artists entirely from your library if necessary.

Going further:

That covers the basics, but there's a lot more the site can offer, including
several different kinds of stations:

http://www.last.fm/help/faq?category=98#214

and custom stations with Combofm:

http://combofm.de/


Scrobbling

Scrobbling lies at the heart of everything we do at Last.fm. If you think of scrobbles like blood cells, they pump through the entire site and power everything you see - your radio, the charts, the similar artists, your recommendations, your neighbours, your recommended events, and so on.

Last.fm helps you keep a record of everything you listen to. Every track or song that you play on your computer is logged on your Last.fm profile page above. We call this scrobbling.

Imagine a list of every song you ever listened to, timestamped in chronological order.

Here it is: http://www.last.fm/user/_/tracks

Want to know what I was listening to on Christmas Eve 2010?

Here you go: http://www.last.fm/user/Maddieman/library/explore/2010/12/24

But what actually are "Scrobbles"?

A "Scrobble" is a set of data, which contains the following "metadata":

- The artist name.
- The track name.
- The album name (Optional)
- Timestamp - The time the track started playing

My first scrobble was:

Artist: Gabriella Cilmi
Track: Don't Want to Go to Bed Now
Album: Lessons To Be Learned
Timestamp: 5:38am, 8th September 2008

And that's something I have to live with for the rest of my life. :)

Specifically "Scrobbling" refers to the action of sending Last.fm your listening data (usually in realtime) to our servers. So, when you listen to our radio service, scrobbling is automatically turned on, and each track you listen to appears on your profile page. If you turn scrobbling off (the AS button in the corner), the music you listen to isn't logged on your profile any longer.

Scrobbling ON - the music you listen to is logged
Scrobbling OFF - the music you listen to is private and not saved.

Why should I scrobble?

The key thing here is that scrobbling automatically adds artists, tracks, and albums to your library. If you listen to music on your personal computer, you can 'scrobble' these songs to your profile page, which will automatically add them to your Last.fm library, again increasing your overall radio selection as well as increasing the accuracy and relevance of Last.fm's music suggestions.

Better still, this will help generate weekly charts for your profile, allowing you to explore your listening history and trends over the years. Arguably though, the best aspect of scrobbling is that it allows Last.fm to automatically connect you with other people who have a similar taste in music as you. We call these your Last.fm 'Neighbours', and they can be found here: http://www.last.fm/user/_/neighbours

To scrobble mp3s locally on your computer, you will need to download our desktop application, which can be found here:

Version 1.5 (released 2006): http://www.last.fm/download
Version 2.1 beta (released 2012): http://www.last.fm/group/Audioscrobbler+Beta

This will let you listen to your Last.fm radio on your computer without having to log in to the website, and it also installs our scrobbling plugin to a number of popular media players including WinAmp, Windows Media Player, and iTunes. You should also find that other popular music services, such as Spotify, allow you to sign in to your Last.fm account and scrobble the tracks played on these platforms as well.

Be warned scrobbling is addictive! Many of our long standing members have been known to scrobble songs they’ve heard at concerts, in supermarkets, and even on adverts! :)


Recap:

+Scrobbling logs your listening history
+ It's used to power everything on the site, including recommendations and radio
+ You can use it to show off your taste in music
+ Generates personalised weekly, monthly, and annual charts
+ Automatically matches you with people who have similar tastes in music as you
+ Addictive, in a good way.

Comentários

  • rwitte

    Sweet journal, Jon. Although I am hoping it is part 1 of 2. Part 2 should talk about tagging, friends and groups. The other issue is how to get to the info to the target audience. Anyway, thanks for putting it together,

    Set 22 2011, 22h25
  • Maddieman

    Thanks. I can't talk specifics right now, but hopefully this, and other articles like it, won't go to waste.

    Set 23 2011, 9h55
  • Maddieman

    As for a part 2 - one thing I definitely want to do is a guide to making the most of last.fm for labels. Instead of the obvious stuff, I want to focus on how you use the social side of Last.fm to promote your work without spamming people. I'm pretty certain this would overlap with the points you've mentioned.

    Set 23 2011, 17h21
  • wellcovers

    It is really useful information, as i am just new here and wondering how to use it.

    Jun 1 2012, 7h02
  • headey

    This is a great introduction to lastfm. I'm surprised more newbies haven't posted a comment. ~~~~ One thing intrigues me :"...'loved' songs and recently played artists tend to get a higher weighting, and will play more frequently." -I can understand 'loved' getting a weighting, but not 'recently played artists' unless there is also a weighting in the algorithm to play tracks the user has heard the least. This must surely be why there are so many comments about repeats. If there is a suggestions box for the algorithm writers could they consider one version for teenagers and another for listeners who want more variety?

    Jun 16 2012, 16h41
  • stevemainwaring

    Hi. Sorry - this isn't something covered in your very useful guide, but I can't see it covered anywhere else on the site either, so I hope you don't mind me asking. Recently I've been trying to add artists to my library but when I click on 'Save' I get '!' in the top right corner but no explanation. Is there a limit to what we can save in our library? I'm probably up to about 1500 now. Thanks for any help you can offer.

    Jun 16 2012, 17h27
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