Last.fm is a website about self-indulgent data-porn. It also tries to be a social networking platform that keeps track of the music its users play.
When you sign up on last.fm, you download a small program that keeps track of the music you play through iTunes and Windows Media Player. The music you play is then listed on your last.fm page as you play it through a process called “scrobbling.” It is then sorted according to aritst, album, and track. These categories are then subdivided according to how recently you listened to them–the past week, three months, six months, year, and then longer than that.
Sometimes the program that scrobbles your music decides to stop working for no good reason. Also, the site is supposed to be able to keep track of songs you play on your iPod once you plug the device into your computer. It doesn’t. Last.fm isn’t perfect.
Last.fm tries to be a social media platform, so you can keep track of your friends’ music if you want. It rates people’s musical compatibility based on the artists they listen to. If you are self-assured of your own good taste in music, this allows you to judge other people based on whether or their musical taste is compatible with yours. I’ve found that most people who use last.fm don’t check it often, so the site doesn’t work well for social networking. But it’s fun to see what your friends are listening to, and there’s a radio-esque player on each user’s page that lets you play music from their library. You can find out about new music this way.
You can also look at your “neighbors,” who on last.fm are people the site thinks are extremely musically compatible with you. The site is rarely accurate in finding people who are entirely compatible, but this is still a good way to find out about new music from people with similar tastes to yours.
In a sidebar, last.fm lists concerts in your area it thinks you should attend. Occasionally, this feature has informed me about concerts by some of my favorite artists. It is very useful.
There are other features to last.fm, but nobody uses them. As I said, most people who have last.fm accounts rarely look at the site.
Overall, last.fm a pointless, unnecessary website. You don’t need to know how many times you listened to The White Album, or how many times you’ve listened to Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” or that John Cougar Mellencamp is your most-played performing artist. But if you like sifting through useless statistics, this site is as valid a waste of your time as Facebook, Wikipedia or Youtube. Because looking at useless statistics can be fun.
If you want to look at my last.fm page, you can view it here. Feel free to judge my taste in music. And you should sign up to the site so I can judge yours.