Tasty Tasty Music

Monday, 30 April 2012
by Michael Horan
filed under Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 9

At Last.fm, we always enjoy seeing how developers take advantage of our API and what incredible products they come up with. This week, Lurpak® are releasing a new UK-only radio product, called FoodBeats, that serves up music based on what you’re cooking.

Simply type in the name of the dish you’re making, how long you’ll be preparing it, and Last.fm serves up a playlist based on what you’re cooking. FoodBeats tailors specially selected songs into a playlist based on the listener’s chosen recipe and learned musical preferences. So, for example, anyone cooking sausage and mash might be served anything from 60’s mod rocker vibes through to the fun Britpop of the 90’s.

Next time you plan on preparing a dinner, try it out!

Scrobble with Deezer

Friday, 6 January 2012
by Gilda Maurice
filed under Announcements and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 10

[Pour la version française, lisez plus bas!]

Last.fm has a mission: to find out what music you already listen to, so that we can recommend new music you will really like. So every time you listen to a track, we want to know – be it on Spotify, your smartphone, your iPod, your Xbox, iTunes or anything else that you play music on. We do this by letting all these websites, phones and devices “scrobble”. Scrobbling means that with your permission, we are sent a message every time you listen to a track.

There are already over 600 websites, phones, applications and hardware devices that scrobble, but we won’t rest until every single music player in the world talks to us! This is because we don’t want to miss any of the listening that makes your taste unique, and because the more scrobbles we get from all around the world, the better our recommendation system gets.

This is why we are very happy to announce that Deezer are now scrobbling. Their 20 million users around the world can now get our personalized music recommendations based on the tracks they listen to on Deezer, and by doing so participate in the great Last.fm project.

Setting up scrobbling on Deezer is easy – just click here and enter your Last.fm username.
Otherwise follow these instructions: when you’re logged into Deezer, click on your avatar on the top right, select “My account”, and then go to the “Alerts & Sharing” tab. Voilà!

We are really looking forward to working more closely with Deezer – we’ll keep you posted with any updates.

Happy scrobbling!

Last.fm a une mission: découvrir ce que vous écoutez déjà pour pouvoir vous recommander de nouvelles musiques que vous adorerez. A chaque fois que vous écoutez un morceau, nous voulons donc le savoir – que ce soit sur Spotify, votre mobile, votre iPod, votre Xbox, iTunes ou par n’importe quel autre moyen. Nous atteignons notre objectif grâce à ce que nous appelons le “scrobbling”: nous permettons à tous les sites web, mobiles et autre machines de prévenir Last.fm – avec votre permission! – à chaque fois que vous écoutez quelque chose.

Plus de 600 sites webs, téléphones, applications et appareils musicaux scrobblent déjà, mais nous ne serons satisfaits que quand tous les lecteurs media du monde nous parleront! Il y a deux raisons à cela: nous ne voulons rater aucun des titres que vous écoutez et qui forment votre profil musical; et notre système de recommandation musicale s’améliore à chaque fois que nous recevons un nouveau scrobble.

Voila pourquoi nous sommes très heureux de vous annoncer que Deezer vous permet désormais de scrobbler! Leurs 20 millions d’utilisateurs à travers le monde peuvent maintenant recevoir nos recommandations personnalisées basées sur les morceaux écoutés sur Deezer – participant ainsi au grand projet Last.fm.

Configurer le scrobbling sur Deezer est très facile: clickez sur votre avatar en haut à droite, choisissez “Mon compte” et ouvrez “Notifications & partage”. Voilà!

Nous avons hâte de collaborer de façon encore plus proche avec Deezer – on promet de vous garder informés.

A bientôt et bonnes découvertes musicales!

The Brainz are Back in Town

Thursday, 24 November 2011
by Adrian Woodhead
filed under Announcements and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 18

Many moons ago Last.fm set up a collaboration with MusicBrainz, the open-source music metadata database and community. MusicBrainz use special keys known as MusicBrainz Identifiers (MBIDs) to uniquely identify artists, labels, songs and many other music-related entities. One of the main ideas behind them is that anyone can use these keys to identify and cross-reference musical entities, even if they come from different sources.

For example, an album review site could publish the MBID for an album being reviewed and someone could take this MBID and look up the album on MusicBrainz (or some other site supporting MBID lookups) to find out more information about it.

That was then

The plan at the time was to regularly synchronise MBIDs with the artists, albums and tracks in Last.fm’s catalogue. The MBIDs (or should those be MBIDz?) could then be used to query for these entities using our API, or to link across different services using the MusicBrainz ids as an external mashup key. Last.fm API calls also return MusicBrainz ids where applicable (see artist.getInfo for an example).

This continued successfully for a while until a few shake ups and changes over here resulted in us temporarily dropping the ball on this one and the regular updates stopped (we did however keep the historical data).

MusicBrainz members hanging out in Last.fm’s ball pit back in the day (photo by Mayhem).

This is now

The good news is that we reconnected with MusicBrainz while we were visiting San Francisco for this year’s Hadoop Summit and are recommitting ourselves to being good citizens of the MusicBrainz community.

Our first step is to once again synchronise Last.fm artists, albums and tracks with their relatives over at MusicBrainz using their Live Data Feed which means we’ll be updating these once an hour. We’ve already started doing this and have more information on the technical details over in our development discussion forum.

To the future and beyond

Once we are in synch again we will start looking at other ways we can more actively work together with MusicBrainz and also with others like The Guardian and the BBC who use MusicBrainz Identifiers too. We also hope to leverage MusicBrainz’s experience with handling artist and album disambiguation to improve how we model music on Last.fm. We currently have the pleasure of hosting one of their developers (OCharles) at our London offices a couple of days a week to work on these and other related issues.

So, if you have any questions, comments or requests for features please ask them over on the forum, catch you there.

Last.fm DJ Team Mix

Wednesday, 3 August 2011
by Stuart Beckingham
filed under Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 5

As friends of Last.fm and fellow residents of “Silicon Roundabout”, Mixcloud invited us to get involved in their “Celebration of Curation 2011” series. There’s a wealth of DJ talent at Last.fm and so rather than picking one person to represent Last.fm, five of us (Lumberjack, Pellitero, Good_Bone, Baseonmars and myself) decided to create mini-mixes and weave them together into an hour and a half mix, covering everything from post-rock to deep house, dubstep and UK Funky.

Check out the Last.fm DJ Team page for more mixes and let us know which ones you like.

(And before you ask, we’re hoping to announce a solution for enabling Mixcloud to scrobble in the not too distant future…)

Last.fm Music Manager powers Mp3.com's library of 1M promotional downloads

Friday, 1 July 2011
by Matthew Hawn
filed under Announcements and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 4


Ok, quick internet history lesson: Way back in 1997, there once was a site called Mp3.com. It was famous as one of the first sites to encourage the free flow of music and took its name from what had been an obscure digital music file format, one that we all know and love today. It spread faster than a celebrity sex tape, building an audience that was massive and showed the world that digital files were a fantastic way to discover new music. It was also one of the first big internet music IPOs, raising a stupendous amount of money.

Not surprisingly, that money and audience made it infamous with the big music labels who fought hard to shut it down, creating a familiar yet vicious circle that has continued for more than a decade: technology makes content distribution fast and nearly frictionless; content rights holders throw grit and lawyers at the new products based on it until there is so much slowing it down that it eventually collapses under its own weight. We saw it happen again last week as Turntable.fm shut out ex-US users due to licensing constraints.

But sometimes evolution steps in and changes the pattern a little bit.

Right around the same time some of us were packing our Wellies and heading out to Glastonbury, our parent company CBS Interactive Music group relaunched Mp3.com with a snazzy new interface and a whole load of great new content. We’re happy to say that it’s Last.fm’s Music Manager that powers Mp3.com’s library of music and that Last.fm’s artist wiki pages power a lot of the information on these new bands. The new Mp3.com is editorially driven, drawing on a small staff of writers and the Last.fm Music team to comb through our library to introduce you to great tracks from great artists you might not have discovered yet, as well working with the labels to get new tracks from superstars and great indie bands who are already well-known.

But one of my favorite things about Last.fm is that almost a quarter of the 13M tracks available in our streaming radio system are from unsigned or independent artists who aren’t affiliated with big labels and who own the rights to their music outright. These tracks are uploaded by new bands to Last.fm’s Music Manager and this puts them into Last.fm’s radio database. Bands can also choose to make those tracks into full-length promotional tracks that live on their artist pages and/or make them available for free download. This is, by far, the bulk of the music that’s available on Mp3.com and on Last.fm. That’s true to the original spirit of Mp3.com which did more to launch new bands than almost anyone else back in the late 1990s.

The new Mp3.com will have three features that we think are worth paying attention to:

Free MP3 of the Day
This is a daily feature that will offer free downloads of songs from the big name artists and fast rising indies. Most of CBS Radio’s US music stations will be promoting this on-air and so the featured tracks will be divided up into four of the most popular US radio formats: country, pop, rock and urban.

On the Scene
On the Scene is a more international feature, showcasing a city or area with musical significance with free songs from bands who come from that scene. Expect us to highlight both historical and brand-new scenes that catch our attention.

Label of the Week
The name already gives away the concept behind this one. Don’t let anyone tell you anything different: Not all labels are dying dinosaurs. The smart ones are just evolving and we’re here to help you find the fast moving mammals who we think will avoid the tar pits of doomed business models of the old-school music industry.

The last two weekly features above are written by the mighty Last.fm Music team. Stefan, Nick, and Helen here in the UK want to hear from you. Help us feature your bands, your scenes, your labels. We’re committed to helping people discover vibrant new music and not just hyping the biggest and most popular bands.

We have big plans for Music Manager this summer. We’re adding better rights support for bands who have more complicated rights deals. We’re making it easier for bands to track the downloads and the impact of the tracks they distribute through us and through Mp3.com. And we have some secret products and events coming later this year that will expand the promotion opportunities for indie bands coming up fast on our Hype Charts.

We also have some fun partnerships in the works to improve the tools that indie artists want to use to distribute their music to a wider audience. Stay tuned and if you are an indie artist who wants to reach more people, check out Music Manager and visit us on the label forums to talk about what you want from Music Manager.

If it doesn't Scrabble, it doesnt count.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011
by Matthew Hawn
filed under Stuff Other People Made and About Us
Comments: 11

I’m in the lab all day, I Scrabble all night
I got a Bedazzler so my outfit’s tight
When it comes to panache I can’t be beat
I got the most style from below 14th street”

- Beastie Boys, “Shazam!”

About a month ago a press release appeared on the HarperCollins website noting that some new terms “from the digital world” were going to be added to the official Scrabble dictionary. Those words included: wiki, fansite, webzine, darknet, and best of all… scrobble.

Not being a habitual reader of lexicographical press releases, I missed this at Last.fm HQ until Dan in our sales team mentioned it in a note he was sending out to some people we work with. This little factoid got me more excited than when Matt, our data griot, decided to livetweet his first listen to the recent Lady Gaga album. You see, it is my firm belief that Scrabble and the music tech world have a lot in common. Hear me out.

Scrabble, like a lot of music, has an annoyingly complicated copyright history: Hasbro owns the rights to the game in the US and Canada, Mattel owns the rights in the rest of the world, and Electronic Arts own the rights to digital versions. It’s amazing you don’t need to be a lawyer to play the game.

Which explains what happened in 2008 when a pair of brothers created an online version of Scrabble (Scrabulous) that worked really well on Facebook. More than half a million new fans of the game were born, but the first response from Scrabble’s corporate masters was to shut it down and sue the pants off the two brothers who made it, rather than figure out how to work with them to bring the game to more people. Which is pretty much how the music industry has worked for the last decade.

But it’s not just lawsuits that Scrabble and music have in common:

- Stephen Malkmus and the guys from Pavement were well known for their Scrabble games on tour. Courtney Love was famous for wanting to play against Stephen and he was equally famous for beating her in tile-to-tile combat.

- Elvis Costello likes to call himself the “rock and roll Scrabble champion.” And this Etsy shop will sell you a Scrabble tile pendant with Declan MacManus’s face on it so you can show your allegiance.

- The Beastie Boys are Scrabble junkies, and Ad-Rock even goes looking for competition on the road, dropping in at local Scrabble club events.

- There are dozens of songs with Scrabble in their titles on Last.fm, including an excellent one about a Scrabble date gone bad from Milky Wimpshake.

The only bad thing about ‘scrobble’ making it into Scrabble is that it’s pretty tough to pull off in a real game; it’s eight letters and you’ll need the only two Bs in the bag. But it’s worth it. ‘Scrobble’ has three 3-point letters in it and it’s worth 14 points on its own… much more if you can hit a multiple-word-score or squeeze it in to an existing cluster.

Our motto is the same in Scrabble as it is for music: Make every play count.


Scrabble cat, a sometimes visitor to Last.fm HQ

Music Hack Day Berlin

Friday, 3 June 2011
by Michael Coffey
filed under Code and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 5

Last weekend, Russ Hall and I travelled to Berlin for the latest in the series of Music Hack Day events. Having been to previous ones in Stockholm and London, I was looking forward to the usual mix of creativity and collaboration that these events are famous for.

For those that don’t know, Music Hack Day is a chance for programmers, designers, artists, etc, to get together and create new and exciting music hacks based on the latest APIs from top music tech companies (or they can just use a soldering iron and some knitting needles). It’s always amazing to see what a room full of talented people can come up with in just 24 hours and this one was no different.

APIs

First up at a Music Hack Day are the API presentations. This is where music tech companies pitch their APIs and it’s also an opportunity to announce new features for devs to get stuck into straight away. We were there to present our API and the addition of our beta realtime API.

Hacking

After this, everyone fuelled up on Club-Mate and set about hacking. I played with a few side projects while Russ joined up with Tim Bormans of Soundcloud and Jens Nikolaus (designer of the much sought after Music Hack Day Berlin tote bag with Kristina Schneider) to create Sleev.in, an album obsession sharing site.

Here’s Tim and Russ mid-hack.

The amount of sleep you get over the Saturday night depends on how well your hack goes and/or how ambitious you were and at around 2pm on the Sunday, around 24 hours after you’d have started, it’s time to put down your laptop and present what you’ve done.

Hack demos

The hack demos are always fun to attend and see what everyone else has been making.

Some notable Last.fm related hacks were Lastcred.fm which would, to make your Last.fm profile look trendier, scrobble several random tracks for you based on a tag or artist of your choice (not something we really approve of, but it amused us nonetheless), Tractor which pulled in Last.fm data to help with displaying artist info for mentions of an artist on a web page, and RealTimeSentiTweetGagasm which used our realtime API.

Other favourites of mine were Heavy Shoes which used an Xbox Kinect sensor to detect foot stomps and then play drum noises (something I want to be doing at home very soon), and Eigendrums which also triggered drum sounds, but this time by detecting the sound of you clicking, slapping your leg, and thumping your chest. Both crowd pleasing impressive demos.

You can find the complete list of hacks here.

If any of this interested you then why not think about attending a Music Hack Day! The next one is in Barcelona in a few weeks, but they crop up fairly regularly.

And finally a big thanks to Roel van der Ven and Johan Uhle of Soundcloud for organising such a fantastic event.

The Office Music Democratizer

Tuesday, 16 November 2010
by Matt Sheret
filed under Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 14

First up, an introduction: I’m Matt, Last.fm’s Data Griot. My job is to flag up some of the stuff Last.fm can do, both with our data and as a music discovery service.

Something we all loved seeing a couple of weeks back was the Office Music Democratizer from the folks at BREAKFAST. I got in touch with one of the creators – Zolty – and asked him to write a few words about how it came to be built…

BREAKFAST is a crew of engineers, designers, coders, inventors and all around creative folk. It’s this mish-mash of skills that makes us unique in that you don’t usually find this mix of people under one roof. What it means is that we can create crazy products and experiences that easily span from online to the real world.

Sometimes it comes in the form of a Kinect-like experience, and other times it means building a bike that can share its thoughts and feelings online.

Our latest toy – the Office Music Democratizer – is an example of how we keep our tools sharp. We’re always looking for annoying little problems that we can solve quickly in our extra hours.

Like many design offices, we explored a slew of options to solve the enjoyed-by-all office jukebox. Last.fm seemed to be the answer, but going over to a computer to rate a song felt a bit un-inviting. So, we thought “wouldn’t it be great if anyone could just smack a pretty button on the wall instead.”

The Democratizer is a fully working prototype that hangs in our New York office – as seen in the video. We’ve had a good deal of purchase requests, but aren’t planning mass production anytime too soon. Rather than a big production shop, we think of ourselves more like the tailors on Savile Row – hand-made, custom things for those who appreciate them most. We’re much more excited about making our next great toy rather than dealing with mass production… at least for now.

If you’ve seen something else that does cool stuff with Last.fm, be it with the API or with plastic and glue, then drop us a comment below.

Hacking in Stockholm

Wednesday, 3 February 2010
by Matthew Ogle
filed under Code and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 8

Last weekend I was lucky enough to voyage to Stockholm with Jonty and Michael to represent Team Last.fm at Music Hack Day.

Music Hack Day’s premise is simple – find the best and brightest tech and music geeks, get them all together for a weekend, mix in APIs and workshops from every online music service worth its salt, and then spend 24 hours making… well, anything!

Started by Soundcloud’s Dave Haynes here in London last July, subsequent Music Hack Days in Berlin and Boston have cemented their reputation as the best tech events going, music or no. (Anthony from the Hype Machine did a nice write-up on some of the ingredients that make them great.)

So it was with some excitement that we boarded our plane on Friday and headed north. In addition to our standard hack day paraphernalia — laptops, check; giant headphones, check; world’s tiniest Guitar Hero, check — we also carted along some limited edition stickers, newspapers, and a short presentation on the venerable Last.fm API. (You can grab those slides here as a PDF download.)

Photo by Brian Whitman.

Stockholm certainly didn’t disappoint — the weekend was awesome! We came, we hacked, we even conquered.

We also learnt a lot. Some highlights included…

Swedish hospitality

“Hospitality” isn’t generally up there on the list of familiar Swedish traits (unlike, say, tasteful flat-pack furniture, or expensive booze). But our hosts — Henrik and Mattias — made everyone feel welcome and created an environment that let everyone just get on with creating cool stuff.

There were some uniquely Swedish touches too, like the delicious bread and cheese breakfasts and the snow-based beer fridge. Oh, and the Batmobile showed up. No, really.

APIs in the mirror

Though we’ve offered public APIs to developers since 2003, nothing makes you see them in a new light like face-to-face interaction with people trying to make clever and unusual things with them. We’ve come back to London with a long list of suggested improvements, things that could be clearer in the docs, and even a couple of bug fixes that were reported by intrepid Stockholm hackers. Thanks to everyone who spoke to us!

We also handed out free subscriptions to everyone who demo’d a hack that used the Last.fm API.

A few of our favourites:

  • My City vs. Your City Uses our new geo.getMetro* city charts API to compare top artists across hundreds of cities worldwide. Neat!
  • SimilarArtists A simple way to generate Spotify playlists of recommended music based on Last.fm similar artists.
  • Holodeck An attractive way to create an artist website that based on content from SoundCloud, Last.fm, Songkick, and Tumblr.
  • Mashboard A dashboard for your Soundcloud tracks that pulls in rich audio metadata from Echo Nest. And it scrobbles!

We also managed to sneak in a few hacks of our own:

  • HacKey Ever wondered what your favourite key is? Thanks to the Last.fm and Echo Nest APIs, now you can find out.
  • ProximRadio and Blobble Jonty and Michael came up with a deadly trio of new tech that enables a long-standing dream: proximity-based multi-profile radio stations, complete with group scrobbling. Whoa.

A complete list of hacks is available here.

The online music ecosystem = crazy delicious

It was humbling to be in the presence of so many talented companies and developers, from the music mad scientists of The Echo Nest to the streaming wizards of Spotify, not to mention entire teams who travelled to Stockholm from Songkick, Soundcloud, and many others.

It’s pretty clear that 2010 is going to be an exciting year in music and tech. (And not just because people are building Playdar-enabled beatmatched collaborative Spotify playlist generators that scrobble via robot arm attachments…although that helps.) Team Last.fm will be in attendance the next Music Hack Day and also at some events of our own, so stay tuned.

Until then, happy hacking!

Happy Christmas from Last.fm

Monday, 21 December 2009
by Hannah Donovan
filed under Lunch Table and Stuff Other People Made
Comments: 22

And that’s a wrap!

Last week we revealed the final top ten in our Best of 2009 list, with — yup, as some of you guessed on the group shoutbox three weeks ago — Lady GaGa in top place with her album The Fame. With roughly 6 million more scrobbles than #2 artist The Killers had with Day & Age, she definitely earned her spot! Perhaps unsurprisingly, she’s also top of the chart for most unwanted scrobbles thanks to the love-it-or-hate-it “Poker Face.”

We also put up a data download for those of you interested in remixing or visualising the 2009 data. We’d love to hear about your creation too, so don’t forget to post about it in the web services forum when you’re done.

All the scrobbles that’re fit to print

To have a bit more fun with the dataset ourselves, we traded pixels for picas at Last.HQ for a week and created a newspaper edition of the list! In addition to the Top 40, the newspaper includes some local data visualisations for London and New York based on listening in those cities. We were able to make this thanks to the lovely folks over at Newspaper Club, a new London start-up dedicated to helping people print their own newspapers.

If you’re out of our newspaper delivery squad’s range, have no fear: here are downloadable A3 poster versions of the newspaper centrefold visualising month-by-month listening trends for both New York and London. Or, if those cities don’t mean much to you, why not grab the activity page instead? It’s got comics, a music crossword, and our favourite — a crabcore connect-the-dots.

Scrobbling in the name of

Moving from one set of charts to another, the race for UK Christmas #1 has been a hotly debated one this year. For the last 4 years the #1 spot has been taken by the winner of X-Factor, a reality show much like Pop Idol, driven by the infamous Simon Cowell. Bored with the years of “X-Factor monotony”, a husband and wife team set up a Facebook campaign to get Rage Against the Machines’s Killing in the Name to number one. People started buying the single en masse, and thanks to our exciting modern world of downloads and live updating charts on iTunes, Amazon and other retailers, people realised that the competition was actually achievable. Hundreds of thousands of people who had before ignored the UK official charts were suddenly inundating the BBC Radio 1’s website to get the chart scores, and tuned in to the radio to hear the results first.

Much to everyone’s disbelief, Rage managed to pull way out in front of X-Factor winner Joe McElderry, bringing in 50,000 more copies sold than Joe, and totalling 500,000 downloads. The betting industry allegedly lost an estimated £1million, and the single has risen 127 places on our own Top Tracks chart to come in at number 7 for this week.

Last.fm users joined in the campaign:

Pretty cool.

Happy New Year

And that’s all for 2009! Thanks for continuing to support Last.fm seven years on; we’ll be back in 2010 with more. Right now, it’s time for a little Christmas tag radio.

Jingling all the way,
– Team Last.fm