|Type of site||Music, Statistics & Community|
|Registration||In the US, UK, and Germany, free (web radio and scrobbling only), with subscription option for extra features at €3/month. In Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil, free 50 Track trial, then subscription required. Free for Xbox Live Gold members (In regions available). Scrobbling features free in all countries.|
|Available language(s)||Multilingual (12)|
|Alexa rank||973 (April 2013[update])|
Using a music recommender system called "Audioscrobbler", Last.fm builds a detailed profile of each user's musical taste by recording details of the tracks the user listens to, either from Internet radio stations, or the user's computer or many portable music devices. This information is transferred ("scrobbled") to Last.fm's database either via the music player itself (Rdio, Spotify, Clementine, Amarok) or via a plugin installed into the user's music player. The data is then displayed on the user's profile page and also compiled to create reference pages for individual artists. By April 2011 Last.fm reported more than 50 billion scrobbles.
The service is free for users in the UK, US, and Germany; users in Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil require a subscription to use the radio service (€3.00 per month after a 50 track free trial). The site offers numerous social networking features and can recommend and play artists similar to the user's favourites. It also uses a Wiki system analogous to Wikipedia where users can share information about artists, tracks, and more.
The current Last.fm website was developed from two separate sources: Last.fm and Autoscrobbler, which were merged in 2005. Audioscrobbler began as a computer science project of Richard Jones when he attended the University of Southampton School of Electronics and Computer Science in the United Kingdom. Jones developed the first plugins, and then opened an API to the community, after which many music players on different operating system platforms were supported. Audioscrobbler was limited to recording music its users played on a registered computer, which allowed for charting and collaborative filtering.
Last.fm was founded in 2002 by Felix Miller, Martin Stiksel, Michael Breidenbruecker and Thomas Willomitzer, all of them from Germany or Austria, as an internet radio station and music community site, using similar music profiles to generate dynamic playlists. The site name takes advantage of a domain hack using .fm, the top level domain of Micronesia, popular with FM radio related sites. The "love" and "ban" buttons allowed users to gradually customise their profiles. Last.fm won the Europrix 2002 and was nominated for the Prix Ars Electronica in 2003.
The Audioscrobbler (the term scrobbling is defined as: to find, process and distribute information involving people, music and other data) and Last.fm teams began to work closely together, both teams moving into the same offices in Whitechapel, London, and by 2003 Last.fm was fully integrated with Audioscrobbler profiles. Input could come through an Audioscrobbler plugin or a Last.fm station. The sites also shared many community forums, although a few were unique to each site. The old Audioscrobbler site at the audioscrobbler.com domain name was wholly merged into the new Last.fm site on 9 August 2005. Audioscrobbler.net was launched as a separate development-oriented site on 5 September 2005. However, at the very bottom of each of the Last.fm pages there was an Audioscrobbler "slogan", which changes each time the page is refreshed. Based on well-known sayings or advertisements, these originally appeared at the top of the Audioscrobbler website pages and were all created and contributed by the original site members.
An update to the site was made on 14 July 2006, which included a new software application for playing Last.fm radio streams and for logging of tracks played with other media players. Other changes included the improvement of the friends system and updating it to require a two-way friendship, the addition of the Last.fm "Dashboard" where users can see on one page relevant information for their profile, expanded options for purchasing music from online retailers and a new visual design for the web site (including an optional black colour scheme). The site began expanding its language base on 15 July 2006, with a Japanese version. Currently, the site is available in German, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Swedish, Russian, Turkish and Simplified Chinese. In late 2006, the site won Best Community Music Site at the BT Digital Music Awards in October. Last.fm also teamed with EMI on Tuneglue-Audiomap. In January 2007 it was nominated for Best Website at the NME Awards.
At the end of April 2007, rumours of negotiations between CBS and Last.fm emerged, suggesting that CBS intended to purchase Last.fm for about £225 million. ($449 million USD)  In May 2007 it was announced that Channel 4 Radio was to broadcast a weekly show called Worldwide Chart reflecting what Last.fm users around the world were listening to. On 30 May 2007, it was announced that Last.fm had been bought by CBS for £140 million with Last.fm's current management team staying in place. In July 2008, the "new generation" Last.fm was launched featuring a completely new layout, color-scheme and several new features as well as some old ones removed. This was, however, met with dissatisfaction amongst some users, who complained about "ugly and non-user-friendly layout", bugs and slowness. Still, a month after the redesign a CBS press release credited the redesign with generating a 20% growth in the site's traffic.
On 22 February 2009, Techcrunch claimed that "[the] RIAA asked social music service Last.fm for data about its user's listening habits to find people with unreleased tracks on their computers. And Last.fm, which is owned by CBS, allegedly handed the data over to the RIAA." This led to several public postings from both Last.fm and Techcrunch, with Last.fm denying passing any personal data to RIAA. The request was purportedly prompted by the leak of U2's then-unreleased album No Line On The Horizon, and its subsequent widespread distribution via peer-to-peer file sharing services and BitTorrent.
Three months later, on 22 May 2009, Techcrunch claimed that it was CBS, the parent company of Last.fm, that handed over the data. Last.fm again denied that this was the case, saying that CBS couldn't have handed over the data without Last.fm knowing.
On 24 March 2009, Last.fm announced a change in free stream listening policy. According to the blog post "[...] In the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, nothing will change. In all other countries, listening to Last.fm Radio will soon require a subscription of €3.00 per month." The change went into effect on 22 April 2009. The announcement has led to a wave of disappointment among the users, resulting in users stopping the submission of their data, refusing to change signatures/avatars and even deleting their accounts.
On 11 September 2009, CBS Radio announced that Last.fm programming will be available in four major market FM stations for the first time on their HD Radio multicasts. This includes KCBS-HD2 in Los Angeles; KITS-HD3 in San Francisco; WWFS-HD2 in New York City; and WXRT-HD3 in Chicago. The programming, which consists mostly of music aggregated by Last.fm's user-generated weekly music charts as well as live performances and interviews from the Last.fm studios in New York City debuted on October 5.
On 12 April 2010, Last.fm announced that they would be removing the option to preview entire tracks, instead redirecting to sites such as the free 'Hype Machine' and pay-to-listen 'Mog' for this purpose. This provoked a large negative reaction from some of the Last.fm user community who perceive the removal as hindering the ability of lesser-known and unsigned artists to gain exposure for their music and general enjoyment of the site. A new 'Play direct from artist' feature was introduced soon after, which allowed artists to select individual tracks for users to be able to stream in full.
The ability to listen to custom radio stations ('personal tag radio', 'loved tracks radio') was withdrawn on 17 November 2010 (tag radio still exists but the criteria for calling up tracks has been widened). This change provoked an angry response among some users. Last FM claim that the move is due to "licensing". The change of 17 November 2010 means that a tag radio stream will include ALL music tagged as such, not just that tagged by each individual user: effectively widening the number of tracks that might be streamed under any one tag set.
On 12 July 2012, Last.fm announced a new website redesign was also open to public beta, and would rely on feedback from testing users. The site redesign went live for all users on 2 August 2012. While well received by technology websites, some of the site's users reacted negatively to the changes on the website's forum.
On 19 June 2012, Last.fm launched Last.fm Originals, a new website featuring exclusive performances and interviews from various musical artists.
On 13 December 2012, it was announced that Last.fm will discontinue radio service after January 2013 to subscribers in all countries except the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. Additionally, radio in the desktop client will require a subscription in the US, UK and Germany, although the website radio will remain free in those countries..
Last.fm Ltd is funded from the sale of online advertising space, monthly user subscriptions, and donations. On Tuesday, 24 March 2009 it was announced on the official Last.fm blog that Last.fm will charge users—except for those in the United States, United Kingdom, or Germany—a subscription fee of €3.00 per month for use of Last.fm radio.
In 2004, the company received the first round of angel money, from Peter Gardner, an investment banker who was introduced to the founders as early as 2002. A second round was led by Stefan Glaenzer (joined by Joi Ito and Reid Hoffman), who bought into Michael Breidenbrueckers shares as well. In 2006 the company received the first round of venture capital funding from European investors Index Ventures, whose General Partners Neil Rimer and Danny Rimer also joined Last.fm's board of directors, consisting of Felix Miller, Martin Stiksel and Stefan Glaenzer (Chair).
Original founders Felix Miller, Martin Stiksel and Richard Jones left the company in summer 2009.
The free user account includes access to all the main features listed below. Registered Users are also able to post in the Last.fm forums, send and receive private messages and use the Last.fm client music player. For users living outside the UK, US and Germany, the radio service will require a subscription for €3.00 per month after a 50 track free trial.
A Last.fm user can build a musical profile using any or all of several methods: by listening to their personal music collection on a music player application on a computer or an iPod with an Audioscrobbler plugin, or by listening to the Last.fm internet radio service, either with the Last.fm client, or with the embedded player. All songs played are added to a log from which personal top artist/track bar charts and musical recommendations are calculated. This automatic track logging is called scrobbling.
Last.fm automatically generates a profile page for every user which includes basic information such as their user name, avatar, date of registration and total number of tracks played. This can be customized with additional information or photographs if desired but the fundamental layout cannot be changed. There is also a Shoutbox for public messages. Profile pages are visible to all, together with a list of top artists and tracks, and the 10 most recently played tracks (can be expanded). Each user's profile has a 'Taste-o-Meter' which gives a rating of how compatible your music taste is.
Profile pages can also include lists of friends, weekly musical "neighbours", favourite tags, groups and events. Specifically, musical neighbours show users other people on the site who have the most similar musical tastes to them. The neighbours section notes favorited genres, artists, the last track the neighbour listened to, and allow individuals the ability to examine that user's profile. Finally, a neighbourhood radio is available for users to listen to, and is customized according to the interests of the neighbourhood.
Additionally, an optional customizable playlist may be added, with tracks that the user wishes to share or promote. Other features include the ability to remove songs listened to within a 2 week time-frame, navigation to linked profiles (such as friends and musical neighbours) and a list of individual users' favourite albums.
The most recent expanded service on Last.fm is a personal recommendations page known as "The Dashboard". This is only visible to the user concerned and lists suggested new music, events, journal entries and other people with similar tastes, all tailored to the user's own preferences.
Recommendations are calculated using a collaborative filtering algorithm so users can browse and hear previews of a list of artists not listed on their own profile but which appear on those of others with similar musical tastes. The page also lists music that has been directly recommended to the user and groups the user belongs to, journals written by users about artists the user listens to, and other users who have listened to similar music recently. There is also a 'recommendation radio' station which will play music specifically filtered based on the user's last week of listening. Last.fm also permits users to manually recommend specific artists, songs or albums to other users on their friends list or groups they belong to, providing the recommendation in question is included in the Last.fm database.
Last.fm allows the formation of user groups between users with something in common (for example, fans of an artist, a genre of music, or membership of another internet forum). Groups may be linked to artists and countries. Any user may start a group and add members. Most groups are open to all, but membership may be subject to approval by the Group Leader. Last.fm will generate a group profile similar to the users' profiles, showing an amalgamated set of data and charting the group's overall tastes. Individual groups have their own discussion forums and journal space, and a group radio station based on members' music profiles is automatically generated once a sufficient number of members have joined. Group members are also able to submit recommendations of artists or tracks to all the other members of their group.
With the October 2006 update, events functionality was added, which lets users specify a location and a radius from the location, then suggests gigs or festivals that that user may want to see in the area. Users can set themselves as attending an event. Any registered user may add a new venue or event which will then be listed on the band or artist's main page, together with other details if available. There is also a facility to submit reviews and photographs of past events.
On 17 November 2009, Last.fm was fully rolled out to all Xbox Live Gold members, after a 3 month successful trial to selected gold members via a redeemable code. The application may be downloaded from the Xbox 360 Dashboard. Users cannot listen whilst playing games; reasons for this are still unclear but point to Microsoft not allowing the application to use too much of system resources to allow maximum processing for games and live services.
Once an artist has had a track or tracks "scrobbled" by at least one user, Last.fm automatically generates a main artist page, even if there is no music available for streaming on the radio. This page shows details of the total number of plays, the total number of listeners, the most popular weekly and overall tracks, the top weekly listeners, linked groups and journals, a list of similar artists, most popular tags and a shoutbox for messages. There are also links to events, additional album and individual track pages and similar artists radio. Official music videos and other videos imported from YouTube may also be viewed on the relevant artist and track pages.
Users may add relevant biographical details and other information to any artist's main page in the form of a Wiki. Edits are regularly moderated to prevent vandalism. A photograph of the artist may also be added. If more than one is submitted, the most popular is chosen by public vote. User submitted content is licensed for use under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike License and GNU Free Documentation License.
Last.fm currently cannot disambiguate artists with the same name; a single artist profile is shared between valid artists with the same name. Also Last.fm and its users currently does not differentiate between the Composer and the Artist of music which makes for disorganization in classical music genres.
Last.fm's music library contains well over 12 million individual audio tracks from artists on all the major commercial and independent labels. Users are not allowed to upload copyrighted audio files but commercially available albums are regularly added by Last.fm staff. The music catalogue includes a wide variety of genres including popular music, classical, opera and musicals, as well as many little known and specialist recordings which are no longer generally available. For licensing and other reasons, there are significant gaps in Last.fm's music catalogue, and tracks that used to be available can disappear. E.g., as of 2012, most songs by The Beatles, the Pet Shop Boys and Madonna, among others, are unavailable for streaming. Most recent releases are also not always added immediately.
In February 2007 Warner Music, the world's third-largest music company, announced that it had signed a deal to allow its entire catalogue to be played on Last.fm. Warner's music would be made available over Last.fm's service in Europe and North America. The site's co-founder, Martin Stiksel, said they were also in talks with the other three major labels and content holders. However in June 2008 Warner cancelled its deal with last.fm and removed all Warner artists from the site's on demand streaming catalogue, Warner have indicated that they are in disagreement over the financial compensation offered by last.fm.
Independent record labels and unsigned artists are encouraged to promote their music on Last.fm, because the filtering and recommendation features mean that the music will be played for users who already like similar artists. Labels and artists can upload their own music for streaming and Last.fm provides access to weekly airplay statistics, with facilities for promoting individual artists or tracks. Labels and artists may choose whether their music is to be made available for streaming only, or for purchase or free download.
30-second previews of any of the 12 million streamable tracks are available on demand, from anywhere in the site, by clicking on the grey arrow next to the name of the track or artist. Some tracks were also available to preview in full if the label or artist has specifically authorized it.
In October 2006, Last.fm brought back its free download service which allowed users to download select tracks as specified by the artist or the label. The service only includes tracks on "indie" labels or by bands who upload their own material, although some artists who have since moved onto a major label (such as Coheed and Cambria and My Chemical Romance) have kept their free songs available for download. More than 500,000 indie artists and labels have used the Last.fm Music Manager to upload more than 3 million tracks to be played on Last.fm's radio, 2 Million can be played "directly from artist" and more than 1M of these songs are currently downloadable, and there is a separate free download chart, updated weekly, showing the 200 most popular tracks. This database of music currently powers the relaunched Mp3.com site that went live in June 2011.
On 23 January 2008, Last.fm changed its business model with the Free the Music initiative. Most tracks and albums could be streamed from the website free of charge up to three times. The artists were paid each time the track is played. This service was still in beta mode and free on demand listening was only available to users in the US, UK and Germany.
Last.fm switched this off on 12 April 2010, which upset some Last.fm users, instead partnering with third party music services as MOG, Spotify, and Hype Machine to provide listenable content. All tracks are played in full when users listen to Last.fm's radio.
Last.fm supports end-user tagging or labeling of artists, albums, and tracks to create a site-wide folksonomy of music. Users can browse via tags, but the most important benefit is tag radio, permitting users to play music that has been tagged a certain way. This tagging can be by genre, mood, artist characteristic, or any other form of user-defined classification. However, since tagging is not moderated, it is prone to manipulation by the site's users, most often resulting in genre disagreements among users or pushing certain artists higher up on certain tag charts.
Until November 2010, subscribers were also able to create personal tag radio stations containing only tracks and artists that they have tagged themselves. All tag radio stations (including subscriber's personal tag stations) could be played by anybody, including non-subscribers in certain countries including US and some others. In other countries playing requires subscribing.
One particular feature of Last.fm is the automatic weekly generation and archiving of detailed personal music charts and statistics which are created as part of its profile building. Users have several different charts available, including Top Artists, Top Tracks, and Top Albums, as well as Weekly Top Artists and Weekly Top Tracks. Each of these charts is based on the actual number of people listening to the track, album or artist recorded either through an Audioscrobbler plugin or the Last.fm radio stream.
Additionally, charts are available for the top tracks by each artist in the Last.fm system as well as the top tracks for individual albums (when the tagging information of the audio file is available). Artist profiles also keep track of a short list of Top Fans, which is calculated by a formula meant to portray the importance of an artist in a fan's own profile, balancing out users who play hundreds of tracks overall versus those who play only a few.
As the information generated is largely compiled from the ID3 data from audio files "scrobbled" from user's own computers, and which may be incorrect or misspelled, there are many errors in the listings. Tracks with ambiguous punctuation are especially prone to separate listings, which can dilute the apparent popularity of a track. Artists or bands with the same name are not always differentiated. The system attempts to translate some different artist tags to a single artist profile, and has recently attempted to harmonise track names.
Charts are also available for user groups, thus providing a view into a demographic slice, and can reveal interesting new music based on the preferences of similar users.
Last.fm generates weekly "global" charts of the top 400 artists and tracks listened to by all Last.fm users. To prevent the artificial boosting of an artist or song by deliberately repeated tracks from a single listener, these charts are based on the total number of individual listeners (the reach) and not the number of actual plays.
The result is notably different from traditional commercial music charts provided by the UK Top 40, Billboard magazine, Soundscan and others, which are based on radio plays or sales. Last.fm charts are less volatile and a new album's release may be reflected in play data for many months or years after it drops out of commercial charts. For example, The Beatles have consistently been a top 5 band at Last.fm, reflecting the continued popularity of the band's music irrespective of current album sales. Significant events, such as the release of a highly anticipated album or the death of an artist can have a large impact on the charts.
The Global Tag Chart shows the 100 most popular tags that have been used to describe artists, albums, and tracks. This is based on the total number of times the tag has been applied by Last.fm users since the tagging system was first introduced and does not necessarily reflect the number of users currently listening to any of the related "global tag radio" stations.
These lists highlight significant achievements based on the weekly Last.fm Scrobbling Top Tracks Chart (Worldwide users), spanning from the inception week ending 20 February 2005 through the week ending 12 May 2013.
Tracks with the most weeks at number-one
Artists with the most cumulative weeks at number-one
Last.fm offers customized virtual "radio stations" consisting of uninterrupted audio streams of individual tracks selected from the music files in the music library.
Stations can be based on the user's personal profile, the user's "musical neighbors", or the user's "friends". Groups based around common interests or geography also have radio stations if there are enough members, and tags also have radio stations if enough music has the same tag. Radio stations can also be created on the fly, and each artist page allows selection of a "similar artists" or "artist fan" radio station. As of May 2009, Last.fm introduced Visual Radio, an improved version of last.fm radio. This brought features such as an artist slideshow and combo stations, which allows for listening to stations consisting of common similar artists of up to either 3 artists or 3 tags.
Under the terms of the station's "radio" license, listeners may not select specific tracks (except as previews), or choose the order in which they are played, although any of the tracks played may be skipped or banned completely. The appropriate royalties are paid to the copyright holders of all streamed audio tracks according to the law in the UK. The radio stream uses an MP3 stream encoded at 128 kbit/s 44.1 kHz, which may be played using the in-page flash player or the downloaded Last.fm client, but other community-supported players are available as well as a proxy which allows using a media player of choice.
On 24 March 2009, Last.fm announced that Last.fm Radio will require a subscription of €3.00 per month for users living outside the US, the UK, and Germany. This change was to take effect on 30 March, but was postponed until 22 April. The decision resulted in over 1,000 comments, most of them negative, on the Last.fm blog.
Screenshot of the Windows client.
|Stable release||2.1.35 / March 6, 2013|
|Operating system||Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, Unix|
|License||GNU General Public License|
An "in-page" player is provided automatically for all listeners with HTML5-enabled browser or Adobe Flash installed on their computers. However, it is necessary to download and install the Last.fm client if a user also wishes information about played tracks from their own digital music collection to be included in their personal music profile.
Prior to August 2005, Last.fm generated an open stream that could be played in the user's music player of choice, with a browser-based player control panel. This proved difficult to support and has been officially discontinued. The Last.fm client is currently the only officially supported music player for playing customized Last.fm radio streams on desktop computers. The current version combines the functions of the music player with the plugin that transmits all track data to the Last.fm server, and effectively replaces the separate Last.fm Player and the standalone track submission plugins. It is also free software licensed under the GNU General Public License and available for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows operating systems.
The player allows the user to enter the name of any artist or tag which then gives a choice of a number of similar artist stations, or similar global tag stations. Alternatively, Recommendation radio or any of the user's personal radio stations may be played without the necessity to visit the website.
The player displays the name of the station and track currently playing, the song artist, title and track length as well as album details, the artist's photo and biographical details, album cover art when available, lists of similar artists and the most popular tags and top fans. There are several buttons, allowing the user to love, skip, or ban a song. The love button adds the song to the user's loved tracks list; the ban button ensures that the song will not be played again. Both features affect the user's profile. The skip button does not. Other buttons allow the user to tag or recommend the currently playing track. Other features offered by the application are: minor editing of the user's profile including removing recently played artists and songs from the loved, banned, or previously played track lists; lists of friends and neighbours, lists of tags and a list of previously played radio stations. Users can also open their full Last.fm profile page directly from the player.
In the latest version of the Last.fm Player application, the user can select to use an external player. When this is done, the Last.fm Player provides the user with a local URL, through which the Last.fm music stream is proxied. Users can then open the URL in their preferred media player.
A new version of the desktop client, which had been in beta since early 2012, was released on 15 January 2013.
Last.fm has also developed client software for mobile phones running the iPhone OS, BlackBerry OS and the Android OS. Last.fm has only released these apps in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany claiming for four years that they are negotiating licenses for making the streaming available in other countries.
Last.fm can optionally build a profile directly from a user's music played on their personal computer. Users must download and install a plugin for their music player, which will automatically submit the artist and title of the song after either half the song or the first four minutes have played, whichever comes first. When the track is shorter than 30 seconds (31 seconds in iTunes) or the track lacks metadata (ID3, CDDB, etc.), the track is not submitted. To accommodate dial-up users, caching of the data and submitting it in bulk is also possible.
|Audio Player||Scrobble||Love/Hate||Radio||Playcount import|
|EMMS (Emacs Multimedia System)||Native|
|Free Music Archive||Native|
|Helium Music Manager||Native|
|Impulse Media Player ||Native|
|iScrobble Pick 'n' Mix ||Native|
|My Cloud Player||Native||Yes|
|Sansa San Clip+||Native|
|The Hype Machine||Native|
|VLC media player||Native|
|We Are Hunted||Native|
|XBMC Media Center||Native|
|Beep Media Player||Plugin|
|iPod touch and iPhone||Plugin|
|J. River Media Center||Plugin|
|MediaMonkey||using Winamp plugin, or official beta plugin|
|MPD ||Plugin (unofficial)|
|musikCube||Plugin (unofficial beta)|
|Napster Web Radio||Plugin|
|Rhythmbox||Plugin (installed by default)|
|RealPlayer (unofficial plugin)||Plugin|
|Windows Media Player||Plugin|
|Yahoo Music Engine||Plugin|
The following services support sending service-specific recently played track feeds:
There is some support for portable audio players. Since most of these are offline (which breaks the Last.fm concept), track info has to be batch scrobbled. Players for which batch upload software is available:
Build Last.fm As of March 2008, the website has added a section titled "Build" where third party applications can be submitted for review, and then posted to the page. SXSW Band-Aid Last.fm partnered up with the SXSW festival by creating an application embedded in the corresponding group page that filters the various artists at the festival by a user's listening statistics, and then uses Last.fm's recommendation service to also suggest other performing artists that said user hasn't listened to.
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