Chris Mayes

LastFM and Music Services

Reviving my LastFM account and thinking about how I've listened to music over time.

Something reminded me of scrobbling recently and I realized that has probably developed a way to support Spotify by now (they had, back in 2014, which is honestly a little later than I'd have guessed). I dusted off my old LastFM account and linked it with my Spotify account.

Browsing the Wikipedia page shows that LastFM was bought by CBS back in 2007, which is disappointing but not surprising. It was also not surprising to read that they were subsequently accused of ratting users out to the RIAA for playing unreleased tracks. Corporations look out for each other, after all.

I see that my last recorded scrobble was back in 2008 (Camera Obscura, who remain in my rotation), though my silence had nothing to do with the corporate takeover. I had just stopped listening to my own local MP3s and FLACs and was using streaming services more. I remember Pandora (soon grew tired of being nagged about skipping too often), Yahoo! Music Unlimited (solid software but limited catalog), Rhapsody (briefly; it was not what I wanted), and MOG (horrendous software with a good catalog). It makes me feel like Rip van Winkle to see that Rhapsody is now branded as Napster, a service I used a lot in the magical span of 1999-2000 when everything was free as long as you didn't care about sound quality nor about catching a virus or three. I remember Y!MU shutting down and my subsequently brief foray with Rhapsody. I also remember the handful of tracks I bought off of Y!MU ceasing to work, though I blame myself for ever buying DRM'ed media.

I switched to MOG after a brief frantic search for something better than Rhapsody. The software was horrendously buggy, but I loved the music selection. It seems that MOG has been rebranded as "Beats Music" and still has a poor reputation software-wise.

I switched over to Spotify as soon as it was available in the US without a Facebook account (a service I refuse to use to this day). I think that was back in 2012. I had by then forgotten about LastFM. I know that artists complain about the pittance they get from Spotify streams, but I love the service. It has a vast catalog and a pretty decent UI. I love the accuracy of the search function. The shuffle function, however, is awful, and I've written a script to properly randomize a playlist (among other functions missing from the main UI).

I should also note that Spotify's developer API is a pleasure to work with. The Spotify dev teams have a good reputation for solid software, and deservedly so. I'll probably write a separate post about my experience developing against it.

Publishing what I'm playing (more than I already was, anyway) has made me more self-conscious about what's on rotation. I'm a late-GenX'er who still has the ghost of the idea that media consumption tastes describe one's personality, showing off your coolness, or lack thereof. I mainly gave all of that up during college, but the impulse is still there.

I see a lot of the same consumption-as-personality patterns in Hua Hsu's memoir Stay True. He's about my age, so I strongly identify with his showing off his musical taste in order to show who he is (or wants to be). I know it's ultimately a shallow way to be, but it's definitely who I was, and that part of me still influences what I say and do.