When I first heard of last.fm just under a decade ago, I thought it was nothing more than some weird online radio station. No thanks, I thought, stuffing in my headphones connected to my neon blue iPod nano and proceeding to listen to Two Door Cinema Club on an endless loop. Little did I know that was a decision I’d live to regret almost ten year later.
See, what my naive self didn’t know way back then was that last.fm is a way to track your musical statistics. Your most played tracks, your top artists and albums of all time, all sitting there to flick through like an online musical scrapbook. This is something that would’ve blown my 14-year-old mind back in the day, and something I would’ve used religiously. I was forever scouring my ‘Top 25 Most Played’ tracks on my iTunes account, seeing which Lady Gaga songs made the top billing (it was Born This Way, obviously).
After signing up to last.fm about a year and a half ago, I’ve amassed almost 18,000 ‘scrobbles’ (or plays, to the average joe), and it still baffles me that I can rummage through my music back catalogue and see exactly what I was listening to on a particular day. I can travel through time, donning nostalgia-tinted glasses and revisit that time I spent a whole day listening to Lana Del Rey (I was going through something, okay?), or that one sunny summer’s day where I was obsessed with Fleetwood Mac.
Music has a funny way of transporting you back to specific moments in your life, of dredging up long-lost memories to the forefront of your mind. The time you were nervous before the job interview, so you played your ‘uplifting songs’ playlist. Listening to 22 by Taylor Swift on your 22nd birthday, surrounded by your closest pals. Dancing around in the kitchen with your mum to the one song she insists you play over and over again. It baffles me that people wouldn’t want to sign up to a free service that provides a window to those music-infused memories.
You can even see what you’ve listened to on a week-by-week basis, or monthly, or even yearly. As you can see from the image above (though this was provided through a third party website), I’ve been listening to a lot of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend since the show ended, and been digging JST FRNDS new song of the summer for the past week. Last.fm itself provides weekly, monthly and yearly listening reports – giving you an insight into how your musical habits have changed over time, how mainstream (or otherwise) your music taste is, and how many new artists you’ve discovered. They also compare how many tracks you’ve listened to with your followers, making it, in part, some sort of competition. For me, it’s fascinating, but then, like I said, I’ve always had a strange interest in reviewing my own personal music history.
Furthermore, the website gives you recommendations on artists or albums it thinks you’d like based on your past scrobbles, making discovering new music even easier. It doesn’t work on the best algorithm, however. If you scrobble The Lion King soundtrack once, for example, it’ll quite often shove the rest of the album in your face until you have to manually remove it. But hey, for a free service – with an option of upgrading to one for £3 a month – it’s nothing to scoff at. At the time, the social aspect of the site was revolutionary, pioneering the social media aspect of the internet before Facebook and Twitter really kicked off. And, for music lovers, it was a haven. Unfortunately, as time has gone by, the site has stripped some of what made it really flourish, and the social aspect has been left in the dust. Serving as a musical museum, however, the site still does a stellar job.
Within the last.fm community, I’m forever hearing about how the site flourished back in its heyday, where the website was filled with a hive of activity where you could find listeners with similar tastes to your own. It appears that the site isn’t as popular as it once was, with neglected accounts sat there gathering up metaphorical internet dust, never to see the light of day again. It’s a shame, really. The website offers one of the most unique services I’ve ever come across, and in the recent shift from downloading your songs to streaming them, it’s easier than ever to keep a track on your musical habits.
I’m not sure why the service isn’t more well known, or why it isn’t utilised as much as it should be. Friends I’ve told about the site either remain apathetic, or create an account and never check up on it (I see you – you didn’t connect to your Spotify for over a year and now your stats are ruined). Of course, it comes down to a matter of personal interest but, for me, it’s something I’ll find endlessly fascinating.
Looking back on my 18,000 scrobbles is already a trip down memory lane. I can recall road-trips accompanied by Gaga, winter days with Taylor Swift’s delicate lyrics keeping me company, and slow, soft autumn nights listening to Lorde’s Melodrama. I wish I had signed up sooner, for an even deeper look into how my music habits have changed, but hey, hindsight is a wonderful thing. For now, I’ll keep on building up my scrobbles.
If you wanna follow my last.fm profile to stalk my music stats, look no further! (Please note: I was in no way endorsed by last.fm to write this article. I just have a lot of feelings about musical stats, okay?)