Last.fm is my internet radio app of choice. It plays and recommends music I like far better than most of the other interactive streaming stations on the web. It doesn’t only play well know artists, it plays artists I would probably never come across. I have found some Japanese drum groups, reggae groups from Poland and side projects from artists I already like to listen to. There are several different options to use this very social web radio app. I’ll go over a few of them to get you started.
The first is to a Firefox add-on called Fire.fm. Once you installed the add-on, it will load the Last.fm homepage. Sign in and give Fire.fm permission to access your account. A toolbar will be added with basic controls to start and stop a song, start a new station, change stations, adjust volume, ban or love a song.
The obvious downside to having this toolbar is the need to have Firefox running at all times. This isn’t all bad if you are surfing the web or don’t mind having a browser open all the time. On a Windows machine, Firefox must be minimized for the music to still play. Where as on a Mac, no window needs to be open or minimized for the music to keep playing. However, without the browser open, the controls are not available to skip, love or ban a song. Not very convenient.
The desktop application for both Windows and Mac fills this void. The downloaded app gives you slightly more control and information than the Firefox add-on in a stand alone window.
The desktop app can be minimized or closed and still be controlled from the task bar in Windows or the menu bar on a Mac. The majority of the time, this is the method I use. I have things set up so I can stream audio from my computer to my home audio receiver in another room. I leave it on all the time when I am at home so there is always great music in the background.
On the Webpage
The most social way to use Last.fm, is via the website. The site offers a plethora of features so all of your friends know what your your listening to. You can share you library, suggest songs or artist you like to friends and so on. Those features are pretty common among most social music sites.
A feature that I really like is, Last.fm displays the local shows for artist that play in your radios stations. At first glance, this feature didn’t appeal to me; When I looked a little deeper, there were A LOT of shows at very small clubs and venues. Some of these shows weren’t advertised anywhere else in town. To top it off, there is an option to add the show date and information to your calendar with a reminder.
While viewing an event on the site, there is a spot on the page to let others know you are attending the show. This puts you on a list of attendees allowing everyone to see who else will be there.
Developers have created add ons to other apps like Aduim, iPhone, Android, social networking sites, Greasmonkey and many others. Through their hard work, it is super easy to show the world your vast and varied musical tastes. Some of the add-ons will list or “scrobble” the songs you have listened to on other devices or with other apps such as iTunes.
What other ways do you use to access your Last.fm?