Live in Austin

Thursday, 10 March 2011
by Stefan Baumschlager
filed under Announcements and About Us
Comments: 11

Every spring the music industry descends upon the capital city of Texas to celebrate music in its many facets, genres & tags even. You see where this is going don’t you?

After a two year hiatus we’re bringing back the live SXSW tagging bonanza so that you can go nuts across town with those little red tag stickers. Here’s something to refresh your memory:

It’s simple really; whenever you see someone with sticker sheets in hand ask them to give you a couple so you can share them with your friends and start tagging the real world SXSW.

The fun doesn’t stop there of course! We encourage you to take pictures of your guerrilla tagging, upload your pics to flickr and tag them with ‘tagsxsw2011’ and ‘lastfm:event=1732494’ (that’s right we’re talking about flickr tags now – keep up!).

We’ve also updated the Band Aid group page so that you can easily find the bands you’d be crazy to miss this year! Enter your Last.fm username and you’re on your way.

If you want to could browse the full line up as well as your recommended line up just head to the SXSW 2011 Festival Page. Remember; the bands with the little burning flame icons next to them are the – yes – hot ones, who are destined for big big things in 2011 and beyond.

Finally we’ve got a little mission for you: SXSW has always tons of official showcases & shows, but equally there are a plethora of unofficial shows in someone’s backyard. If you happen to see that we’re missing bands you know are performing in some way shape or form at this year’s SXSW, please take 2 minutes to add them to the line up.

Thank you, and see you in Austin!

PS: if you want to get in touch while I’m out there, please do; follow @baumschlager on Twitter.

Last.fm 3.0 for the iPhone

Thursday, 3 March 2011
by jono
filed under Announcements
Comments: 40

You may have noticed last week that a new update to the Last.fm iPhone app has hit the App Store. Yes, 3.0 is out, and it’s looking great.

Since we released Last.fm for the iPhone back in July 2008, the app has been focused primarily around streaming radio. This has now all changed in the latest release; 3.0 does more with the vast amounts of user contributed artist information and event information Last.fm has, as well as bringing you personalised recommendations and music listening stats.

Here’s a run down of the new features:

Profile Page

  • Top Weekly Artist Chart
  • Your recently listened tracks
  • Overview of what your friends are listening to on Last.fm

Events Page

  • See the events you’re attending (including information about support acts and a quick link to a map of the venue)
  • See what gigs Last.fm recommends you
  • Find gigs near you
  • See which gigs your friends are attending

Music Search Page

  • Browse through the Last.fm music catalogue
  • Artist Biographies containing trivia (great for cheating at a pub quiz music round!)
  • View similar artists.

As a treat to subscribers we’ve also enhanced the radio by introducing Friends Radio – a mix of the music your Last.fm friends have listened to. You can also edit any personal or network station with the new tag filtering feature, allowing you to refine the station you’re listening to by a relevant tag. For example at the moment I’m listening to a lot of Friends Radio filtered by the Rock tag.

(I’m also sure that iPhone4 users will also appreciate the new graphics we’ve used for retina displays)

These new features are just the beginning of what is possible using our API. If you’re interested in taking a look at the code or tweaking it, our iPhone client is open sourced under GPL3 and is available on github.

If you haven’t already updated to the latest version then please do. More information is available from the iTunes App Store.

Last, but not least, our Last.fm mobile apps are up for an Appy! Thanks for your votes, keep ‘em coming!

Last.fm Radio becomes a premium feature on mobile and home entertainment devices

Monday, 7 February 2011
by Matthew
filed under Announcements
Comments: 898

On February 15, the radio service built into Last.fm mobile apps and on home entertainment devices will become an ad-free, subscriber-only feature.

Last.fm Radio will remain free on the Last.fm website in the US, UK and Germany and for the US and UK users of Xbox Live and Windows Mobile 7 phones. We’ll also continue to offer radio for free via the Last.fm desktop app.

I want to explain why we’re making some of these changes.

On the Last.fm website an ad-supported, free-to-listeners model is what supports our online radio services in the US, UK and Germany. In other markets and on emerging mobile and home entertainment devices, it is not practical for us to deliver an ad supported radio experience, but instead, we will migrate to what we believe is the highest quality, lowest cost ad-free music service in the world.

We believe our radio -whether it’s a personalised station or artist and tag radio – is the best in the world and we’re proud of the depth and range of our catalogue of music from major labels, indies and unsigned artists. We’re committed to building Last.fm into a bigger service that gives listeners the best music discovery experience anywhere while financially supporting and promoting the artists who make the music we love.

You’ll see that this change brings us in line with other music services that already charge you to listen to music on mobile devices. For the cost of a fancy coffee, a Last.fm monthly subscription allows you to listen to radio across all platforms, on all your devices, and without commercial interruptions.

This change only affects the radio component of Last.fm’s services on mobile and home entertainment devices. Other features of our service — like scrobbling, music and event recommendations, social networking and community forums, and Last.fm’s wiki-based artist information pages — remain free to users worldwide.

You can read more about the devices that will require a subscription here, you can visit our subscriptions page to learn more, and join the conversation on our forums.

The data behind Best of 2010

Thursday, 16 December 2010
by klaas
filed under Announcements
Comments: 14

Best of 2010

The moment many of you have been waiting for arrived yesterday: Last.fm revealed the top ten of our Best of 2010 list.

This year Ke$ha crashed into the number one spot, stealing the crown from 2009’s winner Lady Gaga. She’s proven practically untouchable in the race to the top too, clocking up an astonishing 15.9 million scrobbles over the year with her January 2010 release Animal.

She took over 4 million more than the runner-up, Mumford & Sons, and if you look at the stream graph of the most-played music month-by-month you’ll see she’s been a permanent fixture.

Stream graph preview

In my opinion, however, the even more exciting bit is that we’re also making the underlying data available for anyone to download.

I was one of the privileged people here at Last.fm who had to shed lots of blood, sweat and tears to get the data for the Best of 2010 list generated, so I’d really hate for it to only be used by us. There’s now plenty of opportunity for you to create different views on this data by visualising it in new and clever ways, combining it with other information obtained via our API or even from entirely different sources. I simply can’t wait to see what other people will do with it.

Balloon Race preview

To get you started, we quickly whipped up a balloon race style data visualisation. The “Best of 2010 Balloon Race“ is based on the Best of 2010 data, showing you how much the top artists in our chart have risen (or fallen) in popularity since last year, as well as contrasting the overall number of listeners for each artist against their rank (number of listeners for their 2010 release).

We even went all the way and made a personalised version of this visualisation available to subscribers on Playground. As usual, we invite you all to send us feedback or join the Playground Group to discuss.

If you’re interested in working with data and consider yourself capable of doing useful things with large amounts of it, then you should come work for us. Maybe you’ll be the one showing off the Best of 2011 data next year!

Last.fm Best of 2010 is here!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010
by matts
filed under Announcements
Comments: 13

Best of 2010

Today we reveal the first part of Best of 2010, a countdown of the year’s most-played music, all based on the tracks you’ve been scrobbling.

Over the next three weeks you’re going to be surprised, delighted and horrified in equal measure by the names in the top forty, whatever you’ve been listening to.

The technical bits. Like last year we aren’t counting re-releases, live albums, compilations or greatest hits collections; just new albums released this year (so the hardcore Sgt. Pepper’s fans out there are going to be disappointed, sorry). We look at releases between October 2009 and October 2010, but include plays right up until November: that’s so we give everything a fair wiggle room before locking the chart down.

Finally, we base it solely on your scrobbles – no ‘Love’ or ‘Ban’ bias – and we don’t take deletions into account; it might be a guilty pleasure you don’t want people to know about, but that still means you scrobbled it.

As with last year, we’ll be releasing the data and a few more fun features in the final week, so you can really dig into your own “Best of”. In the meantime we’d love to find out what your top ten looks like, so you can let us know over on the group page.

We reveal #20 – #11 next Wednesday, and you can find out who the ten most scrobbled artists of the year are on 15th December.

Big thanks to everyone on the Last.fm Team, including guest writer Chal Ravens and our friends at creative studio Rehab.

Find out who’s at #40 – #21 right now…

Recsplorer: recommended full-length previews

Thursday, 25 November 2010
by mark
filed under Announcements
Comments: 28

You might just remember that back in the summer we launched a new recommendations page dedicated to full-length previews offered by up-and-coming and independent artists on Last.fm. While lots of you have been enjoying this as a way to connect with brand new artists, we’ve been working hard to build a much cooler version.

Our new Recsplorer (recommendation explorer) lets you listen to full-length previews by a mix of new artists that we think you might like, based on your scrobbles, loves, tags, etc.

If you hear something you like, you can ask Recsplorer to find you more tracks like the one you’re listening to. Or, if you fancy a change, Recsplorer will give you a new set of varied recommendations.

Last but not least, you also have the option just to click once, lean back, and listen to a sequence of full-length tracks recommended for you, direct from the artists who made them.

Enjoy exploring your new recommendations!

————————————————————————————————

EDIT 16:35 Due to demand you might find that it’s not working on launch – we’re just fixing that now. Make a cup of tea and check back in a little bit.

EDIT 16:41 It should be fixed now. Sorry about that.

Introducing Last.fm Kinect

Thursday, 4 November 2010
by hannahdonovan
filed under Announcements
Comments: 23

A few months ago I walked into a meeting with Microsoft and came face to face with a little ET-shaped camera. It tilted its head up to look at me and I did what anyone in my position would have done: I waved at it.

Not quite believing it my hand started moving across the screen behind Kinect, and things started moving. Within a few moments half of the office were crowding in behind me, wanting to have a go. Fast forward to today and now it’s your turn.


What’s Kinect, you might ask?

While everyone is comparing Kinect to Minority Report, we’d rather bring up Total Recall. Not just because it has the best Arnie line ever, or because it’s part of our Laserdisc collection, but because there’s a scene that fairly accurately depicts how Kinect works:

Kinect bounces an infrared beam around the room, captures this with a camera, separates your body from the background and converts this data into a skeleton. This is the basis for your avatar. (What’s even cooler is its skeletal recognition is smart enough to tell you apart from someone else, even if you try and fool it with a mask. Trust us – Jonty tried)

Using gestures, you can control what’s happening on-screen.


How the Last.fm app works

Last.fm for Kinect is a light-weight version of the radio app that uses gestures to control the player. It lets you browse and play Last.fm Radio with little waves of your hand. While more intensive actions such as scrolling through artist info are still best suited to a controller, it’s really cool to have a new way to interact with Last.fm.

But the voice commands are the best. Want to skip the track? Just say “Xbox, Next!” It’s probably the closest I’ll come to being on the Enterprise, or having Johnny 5 as a DJ.

If you’ve got a Kinect then start playing and let us know what you think!

Mix Radio: a new radio station

Friday, 29 October 2010
by
filed under Announcements
Comments: 74

If you listen to Last.fm radio through the Last.fm desktop client or on an Android phone then you may have noticed that we have just launched a new station: Mix Radio. Mix Radio is inspired by the idea that the best music discoveries can sometimes be made close to home.

While the pure science of music recommendation puts a heavy emphasis on novelty, Last.fm’s incomparable store of data about real listening preferences – as well as our own experience as music lovers – convinced us that it would be interesting to try a different approach. We noticed that listening to all-new music can be a bit heavy going. Similarly, just listening to your old favourites sometimes isn’t what you want either! A few shakes of the test tube in Last.fm’s radio and recommendations laboratory (known internally as the MIR or Music Information Retrieval team), and Mix Radio was born – a station that’s exactly that: a mix of the music you already know + some new recommendations!

The tracks you’ll hear on Mix Radio have been selected in three different ways: some are brand new recommended tracks; others are tracks that you haven’t scrobbled before, but by artists that you know already; and the rest are simply tracks that you know already. We think that the combination makes a really enjoyable new way to explore Last.fm’s recommendations, based as ever on your scrobbles, tags, loves and so on, in the context of more familiar music. Please let us know what you think – we want your feedback as we add Mix Radio to the website and the other Last.fm apps in the near future.

Last but not least, if you’re interested in building the next generation of Last.fm radio and recommendation services, we’re hiring!

Now in the playground: Gender Plots

Wednesday, 22 September 2010
by joachim
filed under Announcements and Lunch Table
Comments: 55

About 6 weeks ago I started a short internship at Last.fm. For my project I wanted to explore Last.fm’s data to learn how listening preferences vary with the listener’s age and gender. Apart from the science, the most important thing I found is that you can make awesome plots with this information.

I started by making a chart to show what kind of music you “should” be listening to if you really want to fit in with the most common artists in your age range and gender:

Artists

The sizes of the artists’ names indicate how popular they are, while their position shows the gender mix and average age of their listeners. Based on the positions of the larger names, it’s already obvious which age category is most common amongst Last.fm users.

So, you can now use this plot to decide which music you might want to listen to. For example, if you are a healthy young male in your early twenties, you probably should listen to bands such as Iron Maiden and Metallica. Gorillaz and Radiohead might just be acceptable. If you get older you can then switch to artists like Neil Young and Genesis. It’s all quite obvious really.

Of course, when I realized what nice plots I could make, I tried it on several other types of data as well. Tags for example:

Tags

You can use it in the same way as the previous plot. Apparently females like using band names as tags (Super junior, McFly), while males prefer finding lots of ways to say the same thing (metal, jazz). Most importantly we have just used science to prove that men don’t listen to much k-pop.

Obviously music is the most important data that’s available at Last.fm, but there are some other profile items that can be interesting too. The words used in the ‘About Me’ section on users’ profile pages might even lead to the most interesting plot of them all:

Words

There are actually so many fun facts about this plot that it’s just best to check it out yourself. The most obvious one is which hobbies you “should” have depending on your gender. Or you can find out at what age you should retire.

I used all of this to create a fun new playground demo that enables all Last.fm users to compare themselves with their friends. This is the plot for the data and recommendations team for example:

Playground demo

We’ve even thought of those of you who like to print their visualisations as a poster by providing a bigger PDF version that has more artist names on it.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy this demo as much as we did. In any case, we’d love you all to let us know what you think.

Now in the Playground: Listening Clocks

Monday, 6 September 2010
by
filed under Announcements and Lunch Table
Comments: 10

A bit less than a year ago we launched the VIP zone on our Playground, with the promise that we would keep adding fancy visualizations to it as a special treat for our loyal subscribers. We already delivered on this promise with the personalised Listening Trends and Music Universe visualisations, and today we’re delivering some more.

This time around we got inspired by the WOMRAD 2010 paper Rocking around the clock eight days a week: An exploration of temporal patterns of music listening. By applying some nifty circular statistics formulas, we managed to create an interesting new visualisation that shows at what times of the day a given Last.fm subscriber has been listening to music over a certain time period. Here’s an example:

In this case we’re looking at Norman‘s listening behaviour for the past 90 days. Red and green represent weekdays and weekends, respectively, and the longer the hand the more the listening was focused around the time to which it points. Generally speaking, Norman seems to listen to music at later times of the day in weekends than on weekdays, and his listening seems to be less restricted to certain hours in the weekend. It’s also quite clear that he tends to listen to music from 10AM to 7PM on weekdays, which isn’t that much of a surprise since those are our working hours here at Last.fm. He accidentally left his radio playing overnight a few times though, as indicated by the smaller red bars from 8PM until 9AM.

Our beloved LAST.HQ‘s listening clock for the same time period is a more extreme example:

Since we use this account for the reception radio in our offices — which plays pretty much 24/7 — the listening is spread out across all times of the day, leading to two hands that are extremely tiny and cute.

We very much hope you’ll enjoy playing around with this new visualisation, and that some of you will point to particularly interesting listening clocks or discuss potential improvements in our Playground forums. Meanwhile, we’ll start working on the next one!