I used last.fm for scrobbling music plays, because it’s nice to see what I was playing. Last.fm did do a decent job of occasionally finding new stuff I’d like. Which is great – the best time for discovering new music was at university for me, because I was thrown together with a bunch of bright people who had come from different backgrounds. That was an analogue world, and last.fm is a digital form of that, although it is also a filter bubble, unlike university. Sometimes you need to seek out things outside the comfort zone, to be able to find new material – serendipity is a wonderful thing at times.
I don’t find that much wrong with music now, but there is a lot wrong with the process of finding it. The internet has destroyed the gatekeepers. In theory that’s a great thing, but I kinda miss A&R who listened to so much crap so that the rest of us didn’t have to. Serendipity works well enough when you’re faced with a universe of stuff that somebody liked well enough to risk money on, but it doesn’t work in a world where you have a multimedia firehose of stuff that is only qualified by the fact people can upload it to Youtube. The signal gets lost in the noise. But then the music industry and artists probably miss us paying them, so we have mutually assured destruction by improved choice. That seems to be why radio is still relevant – this Guardian article sums up the problem:
There is simply too much music out there as the industry tries to throw everything at the wall and hope something sticks. In 2010, Nielsen reported that 75,000 new albums were released that year, a number unlikely to have changed much this year. Spotify and iTunes boast of catalogues of more than 30m songs. We are drowning in music and most of it will go unheard.
And I hate the Cloud for its unreliability, not day to day but the way firms go bust or metamorphose into doing evil, the way it sells my data and claims ownership. Last fm was one of the things that cloud did well, but it seems to have gone functionally much less useful since getting bought by CBS. And it has several years history of mine that I’d like to extract. I am not that troubled my them owning all that data, although I want to move to libre.fm sometime. But they can’t sent a signup email, so at the moment I have the choice between minor evil and dysfunctionality 😉