Last.fm is the British-born online music social network which was bought by CBS (of all people) last year. They have just 'upped the offering' by making a lot of music playable in its entirety on the website. And this has apparently helped its usage balloon in the States.
The reasons I love it are two sides of their core offering: new-to-me music. I love that the method introduces me to 'similar' music via various routes — one would be, after feeding the system lots of info, who else in the world shares my eclectic taste and another via 'tags'. But it also has an enormous archive so I can find music I've lost touch with, a lot from when I was a deejay (I've read that this makes me an example of their desired audience, middle aging blokes revisiting their youth!).
It's more than that though. It still has a 'community' feel, which is most evident on the forums where last.fm staff actually contribute. There's also local communities and lots of people with groups and events and more I've barely touched. But most of all it's enabled me to build up an archive so wherever I might be I don't need an ipod to hear 'my sort of music'.
I've had interesting experiences explaining it. 'Radio stations' really is a last.fm concept in need of a new name. Ain't easy to explain how it works but when showing it to a young friend of mine I jumped with glee when they 'got it' immediately. There are lots of ways to play around with it but the bottom line is you do have to give back to get out, it's not a passive medium.
The best thing by far though is the opportunity to be exposed to music you'll probably like but wouldn't otherwise know, and maybe a lil' bit further.
'tis the future with music I think. Apple be damned!
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