The End of Scrobbling – A Farewell to Last.fm

Digital music has been a fascination of mine since the turn of the millennium.  Audioscrobbler came into being in 2002 while I was in college, and the thought of sharing my listening with a global network of musical peers was exhilarating.

Audioscrobbler merged with Last.fm in 2005, taking the social element of music to a whole new level.  There were forums to discuss listening trends, metadata analysis and recommendation engines… all while independent blogging exploded onto the scene in a flood of obscure music fetishism.

audioscrobbler

In the years since I admittedly lost touch with the service and dropped off the scrobbling radar to focus on personal relationships, collecting unscrobbleable LPs, and developing my career.  As the summer of 2015 came to a close my life was settling up nicely – I left Windows for Linux, I have a fiance, a fantastic career, and I’ve just purchased my first home.

With these stations of life secure, my mind returned to the world of scrobbling and the possibilities of merging big data and my own hyper-specific musical tastes.  I developed a ~500 day plan to scrobble every track from my library 24 hours a day for over a year to submit every title toward Last.fm’s recommendation engine.  Surely a library of over 110,000 tracks would produce some intriguing results!

But this evening, I logged into Last.fm and looked around to find that the site has retired all of its original functions.  The social forums are closed.  The “neighborhood” of your peers is now inaccessible.  The homepage offers only a most-popular-globally-this-week roster plastered with “Uptown Funk” and other predictable tracks.

last.fm top artists

The Wikipedia spelled out what I’d missed – CBS had acquired Last.fm for £140 million in 2009.  Wasting no time, in February of that year the service handed listener data over to the RIAA over concerns about a then-unreleased U2 album.  By 2010 the service closed the custom radio feature, (again over licensing issues) and in early 2015 they partnered with Spotify, further crippling the usability of the site.

But the nail in the coffin came in August of this year with their fully-overhauled website.  It received almost universally negative criticism from its users, who cited broken and missing features.

Given the new light of this information, I’m terminating the full-library scrobble project and saying farewell to Last.fm.  Still, I shall not mourn the loss for long.  The social function of digital music has experienced a parallel evolution in the world of private forums and closed groups on social media sites like Facebook.

Terry RIley - Persian Surgery DervishesA magnificent record I discovered thanks to a Facebook Record Community

Every morning I’m greeted with “now-spinning” rare vinyl treasures and independent music reviews which top anything you’d find from a recommendation engine.  One user from South Korea offered nearly 40 daily installments of records from his Tangerine Dream collection, each accompanied by a custom write-up on the featured release.

Private tracker communities, classic bulletin board systems, and other social structures of the web continue to serve as a brilliant resource for musical discovery.  Last.fm served us well during a pivotal time in the age of digital media, and it will be missed, but we’ll carry on.

last.fm

RIP Last.fm
2002 – 2015

Published in: on September 10, 2015 at 9:35 pm  Leave a Comment  
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