It’s no secret that Spotify is one of the best music streaming services out there and it’s now firmly established here in Europe. Whilst Spotify invites for the service are greatly sought after to say the least (despite you now being able to listen for 20hrs per month without an invite), they’re not always the easiest things in the world to come by. Hence the reason I went on the search for the best alternative to Spotify. Enter, Last.fm.
Before we start this review of Last.fm, first things first, this service is not exactly new. In fact it’s been around for a while and over time it has become increasingly popular not just for its extensive music library, but also social networking plays a big part in the service’s identity. Although usability for both the advanced users and beginners alike is simple, the sheer number of features and customisation capabilities is hardly limited.
This process couldn’t really be easier, so I will keep it brief. Basically, all you need is the either the Last.fm Scrobbler client which can be downloaded from the official website. This is basically the software from which you use all of the features available, or you could use Last.fm website itself which although useful is limited in terms of features. Secondly an account with Last.FM, which takes no more than a minute or two to set up. Thirdly, and finally is a complete iTunes library, which makes the whole process a lot simpler.
Once you have the Scrobbler set up with your account, all you need to do is to play any song from your iTunes playlist / library and let Last.FM do the rest.
What Does It Do?
At this point, once you have started playing your collection of music, Last.fm will begin to compile your own profile of music. Establishing which genres, styles and specific artists you enjoy the most. From there, it scours through its massive library of music and provides you with your own personalised ‘radio station’ consisting of a range of recommended music. Alternatively, you can simply search for a specific artist or tag and begin the customisation process that way.
After a while, Last.fm will have gathered quite a comprehensive profile about you and your music taste. This is where the social side of the service comes to life. Automatically matching you and your profile with users who have corresponding tastes in music. This is simply included to allow even more sharing of music taste, rather than Facebook or Twitter type social networking.
Of course, as I already stated there is a vast amount of quality features. Most notably, the incredible tagging capabilities. For example, you can tag any track using your own keywords and then search through your own lists of various tags as well as other users’ own on their profile.
Plus, all artists that are recommended on the site have been given their own profile including biography track lists and discography if you so desire. From there you can find lists of similar artists rather than relying on a random selection process to determine what comes next.
The Audioscrobbler plug-in is an integral, feature filled part of the service. It is required in order to make use of all of the social networking features as well as the community aspect to Last.fm.
So what is the software like? Well, first of all and probably most importantly is the ease of use it provides. The interface is simplistic with a pane on the left hand side, much like iTunes, which allows navigation between the different features including your recommendations, tags and friends etc.
At the top you will find all of the necessary controls for playing, pausing tracks etc. nothing out of the ordinary for an audio player. From here you can also access playlists which you can create as you are recommended tracks. Plus, you can opt to share a track with your Last.fm friends. So I think you agree, there’s no shortage of features and above all it’s available for Windows and Mac.
So really the entire service depends on your music collection as the service itself and the software is perfectly sufficient and really delivers what it promises, there’s even an mobile apps for your iPhone, Android and Blackberry handsets, not to mention being able to use Last.fm on your Xbox 360.
For those who can’t get an invite for Spotify, and even those who just want something that offers something different, I would recommend Last.fm, I really think it’s a brilliant alternative to Spotify and hence I have given up on wanting an invite to that service.