I have been fooling around with LastFM since one year now. I love it, it is the best service to discover something new to listen to. I have tried others, like Pandora and iLike, and i must say: LastFM is the champion, Pandora is crap.
The reason is: LastFM is social (this is a link to a related presentation of Stowe Boyd), Pandora is not. It seems to me, that the taxonomy behind Pandora tries to boil down any spontaneous idea to a mainstream musical taste. There are no surprises, it’s all predictable. Type in AC/DC, and it will end up in playing Bon Jovi. Man! That can’t be true! Of course, it is both rock’n’roll with male voices etc., but there is some difference, AC/DC is ageless art, and Bon Jovi is commerce and totally uncool. Pandora should know this!
In contrary, LastFM recommendations are often erratic and volatile. But that’s where the fun is, it’s human.
But there are some issues with the LastFM service. What i have discovered for me doesn’t seem to be obvious to others. I takes a while to discover the real benefit, and my guess is, there is an interface problem. There are too much functions available for the novice user, and there is no focusing on the real thing.
But what is the real thing? My favorite: try the „loved tracks radio” of your LastFM neighbours. This radio consists of deliberately „loved” tracks of a member, and is therefore a special selection.
Well, unfortunately, most users never see the „love tracks radio” link, because it is only available for subscribers. And becoming a subscriber is not that easy, only a tiny little link a the bottom of the page leads to the payment page where you can leave 2.50 Euro a month to join the club (i don’t know why they hide this, does this have a reason? If you hesitate to spend this huge amount of money, the neighbour’s personal radio will be good for a try as well).
The fun is: you have to choose a neighbour first, and you have nothing but an image to do this. But an image says so much! You can see whether male or female, old or young, cool, uncool – even when the user has posted an icon. And by this you can make a guess what music his person might prefer. And if you have made a good hit, it plays you dozens of good new ideas.
I would like to see a LastFM interface focused on neighbours!