Not my last FM 1

I’m in the mood for some background music I have fairly eclectic tastes, and like to find new music. In the past, I’ve enjoyed using Pandora a web-based service that recommends new music based on a massive database that categorizes songs on multiple dimensions. It’s very nicely done, but the options are pretty limited.

A similar service that I’ve known about for a while is Last.fm. Where Pandora was initially built on a human-generated “Music Genome,” Last.fm is community-driven. It’s one of the wonderful examples of peer production, like Wikipedia and Digg. Some of my friends are involved with the company, and I’ve always thought it was very cool. But I’d never tried using it. So, earlier this week, I did. And I’m completely lost.

First of all, there are a million different options. Many seem to revolve around social networking rather than listening to music. I’m bewildered trying to figure out how to simply play some music. For unclear reasons, there’s a Web-based version and a downloadable client (which I installed), with completely different user interfaces, and I have trouble making heads or tails of either of them. There’s all this talk about “scrobbling,” which I gather just means the site tracks what songs I listen to, but other than the ability to say that I “love” a track that’s playing, I don’t see how I actually train the system toward my preferences.

Worse, other than the first time I installed it, and once briefly the next day, Last.fm simply hasn’t worked. Whether using the client or the website, it just says “tuning into station” or something similar, and hangs. No sounds emanate from my speakers, no matter what I select. I found a few other people complaining of similar problems on the forums, but no solutions anywhere. My Internet connection is running fine, I’m not behind a firewall, I can play music through other services, and this happened both on my home and work connections.

I’m left to think that, while Last.fm is a service I’d like to like, the execution is just lacking. Too bad.