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Comparison of Pandora and Last.fm 163

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the tell-me-what-i-like dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Blogger Steve Krause takes an interesting look at how music recommenders Pandora and Last.fm work, including some algorithmic strengths and weaknesses. Although he seems to think Last.fm is better now, his punchline is that a combination of their approaches will eventually be the real winner and for that, Pandora can more easily become like Last.fm than the other way around."
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Comparison of Pandora and Last.fm

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  • That reminds me (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PunkOfLinux (870955) <mewshi@mewshi.com> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:51AM (#14614709) Homepage
    Last.fm is great. Especially when you leave the same album, with only 12-13 tracks, running for days on end. It's fun!

    seriously, I think Last.fm has a serious advantage, mostly because there's plug-ins for Linux media players. Heck, amaroK [kde.org] has built in support for it. So, until Pandora has that kind of 'market share' Last.fm will be way better, at least in my eyes.
    • Re:That reminds me (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MatthewHays (811114) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @09:34AM (#14614970)
      Have been using LastFm for a week or so now. But why doesn't it just download my entire iTunes playlist and build my profile from that (that contains tons of useful info, play counts, last played, my rating etc etc)? It would result in my profile being built far faster and being more complete. The more info they get from me the better. I basically just want them to find peoples playlists that have a high correlation to mine and show/play me the songs that they have that I dont. Nothing more complex than that really..
      • But that defeats the whole point. It isn't about what music you have available to you, it is about what you *really* listen to.

        Just because I have the Bee Gees and The Carpenters on my drive doesn't mean I'd ever want to listen to them. I have music for my whole family on my drive.

        • It would be nice if it was an option. Itunes has the song rating option which for many people is what *one* really listens to. Going by what gets played, is a coarse grained version of song rating. Of course some people dont bother to rate songs at all and some people are fickle and may no longer like their highly rated songs, but barring that having each song rated on a 1-5 scale says more about how one likes the song than just what happens to get played (especially since the point of itunes means one can
      • If you use jscrob [www.last.fm], it will read your "Recently Played" playlist when you sync your iPod. Likewise, iSproggler [www.last.fm] should do something similar. I haven't had the time to go through and check out both of them though. There may even be other such clients that will do more interesting things.

        I'd rather the system actually track what songs I listen to and how frequently, for the purpose of building up useful information from that. I have songs on my iTunes playlist that I never listen to, and are only there because
      • Ok, blatant pitch mode ON. :)

        You can use Musicmobs if you want that functionality. We offer a complete import of playcounts from iTunes when you first sign up. We also do other non-Last.fm type things like playlist trading and tagging. See my sig for details.
  • Lastfm (Score:5, Informative)

    by danboarder (773630) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:51AM (#14614710)
    Both are great, but LastFM plays in Winamp and other players, while Pandora requires Flash in a webpage... so I prefer Lastfm. Related: www.TubesMusic.com will soon let users do either one when it's available, so I've heard.
    • Re:Lastfm (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      To play streaming music from last.fm you also need their player.
      Or am I missing something?
    • Yeah, Pandora's interface is pretty ugly. Why go to all the effort to make something that's not as easy to use as a normal webpage?

    • Re:Lastfm (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wwwrench (464274)
      Do people remember the similarities engine [whiteis.com]? That was really incredible, and I got a lot of music suggestions from there. You would enter three bands you liked, and then it would give you a whole list of recommendations. It was very simple, it just built its list of recommendations by using the list of three bands that other people had entered. As I understand it, the patent for this is now owned by Microsoft. Would be interested to know whether they are using it to kill other websites like the similari
    • Re:Lastfm (Score:1, Informative)

      by GFPerez (683823)
      Last time I checked out, Last.fm used to require a download of a proprietary player. If now you can play in Winamp, I might try it again.

      The biggest advantage of Pandora, IMO, was the less-intrusive nature of the service, as using a Flash Player seems much "friendly" to the user (not to mention that's a easier way to popularize the site among the average Joes)
    • The best part is they put the protocol and a library up, so if your favourite player isn't supported, you can just write your own plugin - that's what I did.
  • by Renegade Lisp (315687) * on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:53AM (#14614713)
    This review is one of the best technical articles I have read in a while. Kudos to the author!

    I've played with both services as well, and I have now been a happy (and paying) last.fm user for several months. I don't quite share the author's enthusiasm about Pandora; in my case (and for some of the friends I tried it for), its recommendations were not quite that good.

    The centralized music genome inventory that Pandora relies on reminds me of a Cathedral, while Last.fm is more like a Bazaar of babbling voices -- now I wonder where that metaphor comes from!

    I think Last.fm has more potential because it is fundamentally a social service -- it feels a lot more like other open online communities I have come to know and love, whereas Pandora seems more like a black-box to me (something the review author also mentioned).

    • Your point may be true, but lastFM's model breaks down with smaller numbers.
      I can only talk from my own experience, so I will: If you create a small subset by playing very diverse music like bluegras (Bill Monroe, Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek) and mix it with some rougher music (like New Model Army and Flogging Molly) You end up with very strange suggestions too, but these tend to gravitate towards a popular middle ground (so I suggested to play rolling stones and other popular & bland stuff).

      If you use
  • Pandora and DRM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JackDW (904211) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @07:54AM (#14614715) Homepage
    Pandora's service is DRM-free - they just send you 128kbit MP3s, which you can easily copy using (for instance) tcpflow. I discovered this the other day while trying to figure out a good way to record the songs I liked. Another interesting thing about the service is each "station" only appears to play about a gigabyte of music (compressed). About half the tracks I've captured have been played at least twice.
    • Re:Pandora and DRM (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:13AM (#14614758)
      Last.FM is similiarly trivial to rip.

      Each track is seperated by a string, "SYNC" which the player detects. It's pretty easy to copy the stream, split it into multiple files and automaticaly tag and name them correctly actually. It took me about 20 minutes to hack some Python together to do it.
      • Last.FM is similiarly trivial to rip.

        To help out those of us who are not so savvy with such things, please post your script! I thought about trying to do this but was stumpted as to how.
    • Re:Pandora and DRM (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      With Pandora you don't even have to bother with stream rippers. What they do is to send you an XML encoded file containing information about 3 or 4 songs at once. One of these pieces of information is a URL of the mp3 file (128kbps) that the client downloads. Safari, for example, shows you these URL's in the Activity window where you can just double click to download the song. Very convenient (and dumb on their part).
    • Re:Pandora and DRM (Score:2, Informative)

      by cyberdemo (49375)
      Last.fm used to offer you direct access through any mp3 player and, as such, it was easily rippable too. To use the service you now have to download their player, but Vidar Madsen, a GIMP developer, created a nice proxy that makes listening through regular players possible again. It is called lastfmproxy [gimp.org], and you might be able to rip streams from the URL it gives you too.
  • by xoran99 (745620) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:07AM (#14614749)
    This article has perfect timing; I go to Last.fm only to find that their streaming servers are down for upgrades...
    • Re:Perfect timing (Score:5, Informative)

      by flaneur (217700) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:15AM (#14614762)
      Sigh, indeed...we've been planning this downtime (which involves a major upgrade to our streaming capabilities) for weeks now, so it would figure that we would get Slashdotted at precisely this moment!

      We're also busy readying some cool new features to be released by the end of the week...subscribers will also have access to a beta site (beta.last.fm) later today to try out some of these new goodies.

      -----
      http://www.last.fm/user/flaneur [www.last.fm]
      • As you're presumably a last.fm employee, you may be able to help me out... On your page at http://www.last.fm/tour.php?page=3 [www.last.fm] it notes that "The player is Free, Open Source, and available for Windows, Mac and Linux.". I've looked around your site and can't find any links to download the source though, so presumably I'm missing something. Could you point me in the right direction?
        • Re:Perfect timing (Score:3, Informative)

          by cyberdemo (49375)
          Go to "Download" and select "I'm using an exotic platform" on the dropdown menu and it will give you the option to download the source code. It's not the most intuitive thing in the world, but it's there.

          Direct link: svn://svn.audioscrobbler.net/player/trunk

          You'll have to use subversion [tigris.org] to download it.
    • ...but it is now back (and has been for a few hours).
  • Last.fm rocks (Score:1, Redundant)

    by poeidon1 (767457)
    I use amaroK and it works wonderfully well !!
  • Last.fm marketing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:15AM (#14614763) Homepage
    It seems to me that it wouldn't be hard for some evil record company to promote a new song by simply sending bogus info to Last.fm; setup a few thousand accounts, let each account send info indicating playing that particular song and a few others (either targeted to a demographic or randomly, as to properly annoy everybody) all day long.
    • It seems to me that it wouldn't be hard for some evil record company to promote a new song by simply sending bogus info to Last.fm; setup a few thousand accounts, let each account send info indicating playing that particular song and a few others (either targeted to a demographic or randomly, as to properly annoy everybody) all day long.

      They have pretty good spam protection as far as I know (and this is a form of spam), though I don't know the details. It's not very different from every other blog on t

    • Re:Last.fm marketing (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jugalator (259273)
      ... and that record company (easy enough to find out which from the music that's played) would gain a ton of negative publicity in the process for ruining the point with the service. :-)
    • People who like it, well like it, the rest well just skip over it, the more you skip over it the further you get from the people who like it and the record company, the fewer times you hear anything weighted by them.

       
      • Two possible directions, both with problems.

        If people don't like it, it will take a LOT of people to "vote" out a crappy song, if the marketing people push hard enough; it'll become a war of numbers; how many humans are there to listen and judge vs. how many accounts a computer can fake in the same amount of time.

        If people like it, then at first it might seem okay. The problem is though, that it will drown out anything NOT pushed by the marketeers. It'll become a war of numbers again; the company who can fa
  • When I checked Last.fm's similar artists to the reggae legend Bob Marley, first on the list was James Brown, followed by The Chemical Brothers, then Aerosmith.

    huh?

    Why would Last.fm choose those particular artists? Why not look at the record label, country of origin, style and similar artists? I know they don't want to get 'locked in' to a certain pattern but this is a bit off.
    Recommending Aerosmith to Bob Marley fans is like recommending Slayer to Beach Boys fans.
    • by Tx (96709)
      That's the essence of the difference between Pandora and Last.fm right there. Pandora bases it's recommendations on the musical characteristics of the song, whereas Last.fm bases it's on what other people listen to. They can both be pretty hit and miss, but in different ways.

      Personally I prefer Pandora. For some types of music it seems to work really well - I gave it a Kruder & Dorfmeister track to create a downtempo station, and I haven't had to tweak that station once, it plays exactly what I want to
      • I haven't tried last.fm, but I've given up on Pandora. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get a lightweight station. I'm not familiar with Kruder & Dorfmeister, but I'll create a station, specify additional songs, mark as bad songs that I don't like, and still wind up with loud / fast / angry songs.

        Songs I've tried to base quiet-easy-happy stations on:
        "Can't Let Go" by Lucinda Williams
        "Works For Me" by Toby Keith
        "Piano In The Dark" by Brenda Russell
        "Sweet Freedom" by Michael Macdonald
        "Dark Star"
        • Okay, after posting that comment, I figured I'd try it from the other end of the spectrum. That is to say...my problem with it tends to be that I go to Pandora looking for some relaxing tunes, and I can't get it. That got me thinking, why not go to Pandora when I want more lively music, which is what it wants to play anyway? So I created an "Anthrax" station, and voila! No tweaking required. Perfect.

          The moral of the story is that Pandora rocks well, but entirely fails to lull.
          • Re:Leakage (Score:2, Funny)

            by Imsdal (930595)
            The moral of the story is that Pandora rocks well, but entirely fails to lull.

            The moral of the story is that Pandora tried to give you a clue and improve your taste in music...

    • Re:Leakage (Score:4, Interesting)

      by space_dude_27 (838047) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:30AM (#14614800)

      When I checked Last.fm's similar artists to the reggae legend Bob Marley, first on the list was James Brown, followed by The Chemical Brothers, then Aerosmith.

      All that this indicates is that a lot of people who listen to Bob Marley also happen to listen to James Brown etc. That's how last.fm works, as far as I understand - it recommends stuff based on what other people listen to. If fans of artist A also listen to artist B then it makes the link between the two and recommends artist B to all fans of artist A. I think that if last.fm started trying to exclude stuff because eg: "Bob Marley fans are never going to want to listen to The Chemical Brothers!" then they'd be missing a trick if their data clearly show that a lot of people *do* listen to both.

      Recommending Aerosmith to Bob Marley fans is like recommending Slayer to Beach Boys fans.

      Again, if a lot of last.fm users listened to The Beach Boys and Slayer then yes, it would make that recommendation.

      • that's how i also understand last.fm, and i would prefer it to stay that way.
        though i probably am skewing slightly their information with listening to mike oldfield, followed by fear factory, then followed by operation ivy, then by neglected fields, then by kraftwerk, then by selecter... and that is not even the most bizarre combinations my amarok dynamic playlist comes up ;)
    • I searched for Nine Inch Nails, and about 25 down in the list was TaTu???!?!
    • Recommending Aerosmith to Bob Marley fans is like recommending Slayer to Beach Boys fans.

      At the risk of sounding like a troll, I will hereby confess to liking both Slayer and Beach Boys, but neither Aerosmith nor Bob Marley. So a service that would make those exact recommendations would make sense to me. (I know your example was made up.)

      As others have pointed out, there's no accounting for taste, so a "statistical" approach tends to work quite well. It will give some surprises, but that's good, not bad

  • by TheMotedOne (753275) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:17AM (#14614767) Homepage
    Back in the days of audioscrobbler there were frequent days and even weeks when the servers would be slow and sometimes even not record data sent, but since the swap of domain and name to last.fm it seems that they have worked out all the kinks. foobar2000 [foobar2000.org] and last.fm work splendid on my windows box. I just wish there was some way to have two different plugins report to the same account. (Even if that led to abusing tags.)
    • There is, you can do that, you just have to make sure that the caches submit correctly.
      Otherwise, if a later one submits before an earlier one, the spam protection gets triggered and your earlier ones are lost.
      A lot of people do it, use a plug in for one media player in their work them come home and use another plug in with another media player at home.
      I've got a plug in for WMP on the windows half of my computer, and amaroK set up on my linux half. No problem. I did, at one point, have the plugins bo
    • Just use the same username/password for both. I use the same account in amarok and noatun.
      • I do this on my XBMC and my iTunes but unfortunately the XBMC absolutely refuses to submit (unless I reboot and lose the queue) the minute it even sniffs that iTunes has submitted something, unfortunately. I really ought to see if anyone's got a fix for that.
  • by Eythian (552130) <.zn.ten.itsillak. .ta. .nibor.> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:19AM (#14614771) Homepage
    ...to each of these, is iRATE radio [irateradio.com] which uses collaberative filtering and user ranking of tracks to give you freely available music that you (hopefully) like.
    • here's another one: indy [indy.tv] "plays songs, you rate what you hear. Indy quickly learns what you like and gets really smart about sending you more music you'll like." (Win/Mac/Linux). When I tried it about a year ago, they didn't have enough songs, though...
    • Interesting - I poked around the iRate site for about fifteen minutes unable to figure out how to download it until I noticed that the guide to installing it mentioned the home page (broken link on that page to the home page, but I could figure THAT out.) The home page had a suspiciously large blank area in the middle, but a mouse-over told me that there was something there.

      Turns out that the installation image doesn't show under Opera (even if I identify as "IE", but does under IE. Anyone else notice?

      I'm
  • by altp (108775) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:34AM (#14614810) Homepage
    First thing after singing up on lastfm it told me to download 2 applications. A player and a application that sends songs that I play via itunes back to them.

    No thanks. I'll stick with pandora.

    After spending some time rating songs as likes and dislikes it has done fine for me.
    • You don't have to download them. You only have to download the player if you want to listen to their radio, which amongst other things plays what it thinks you will like based on your neighbours, and not just what you say that you liked. It also plays a radio based on what you've already played and similar artists. You can also play by tags, which arn't genres, even though they're mostly used for that purpose.

      The other application is just a small plug in for a media player. It takes what you like and subm

    • Why? A standalone application is so much easier to use than one embedded in a webpage - you don't have all the junk that's meaningless for its particular purpose. And a plugin for my player of choice is certainly better than having to use their player for my music - there is a huge choice of media players and it's something people have strong (and differing) feelings about. If you're worried about what the programs are doing to your box, the source for the player is certainly available (I don't know about t
    • by utexaspunk (527541) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @09:47AM (#14615014)
      id est [slashdot.org]
    • First thing after singing up on lastfm it told me to download 2 applications. A player and a application that sends songs that I play via itunes back to them.

      No thanks. I'll stick with pandora.


      I used Pandora for a while, but then I realized that it was using about 20% CPU. Maybe that's Adobe/Macromedia's fault, or maybe it's Pandora's, but whatever the case I don't think my media player needs a fifth of my computer's processing power. I'm now happily using the Last.fm player with about 2% CPU. So, my
      • maybe i am missing something, but what was the app you had to download ?
        i am using amarok, too - and i did not have to download anything from last.fm website.
        • Go here [www.last.fm]. You should download the program on the right, the Last.fm player. (You can compile from source if you want, but you'll need Qt4, so unless you already have that, save yourself hours of downloading and compiling.) That program sort of works as your "radio" and plays songs it thinks you will like.
          • i knew about that program, but i was not sure why would you need it if you use amarok - but that's for their streams, right ?

            i think somewhere on this same thread was also information about last.fm removing normal streams and perl script to listen to the music in normal players again ;)
            • i was not sure why would you need it if you use amarok - but that's for their streams, right ?

              Yes, that's their streaming service.

              i think somewhere on this same thread was also information about last.fm removing normal streams and perl script to listen to the music in normal players again ;)

              I'm sure that is completely possible, since the player is GPLed. The player already has a capability to stream from your local system, and you can listen to the stream from another media player, though it seem
  • easier (Score:3, Funny)

    by method77 (943066) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @08:34AM (#14614812) Homepage
    Pandora is much easier to use for dumb people like me so I prefer that
  • What? (Score:2, Troll)

    by Oscaro (153645)
    It would be nice if /. posts could briefly introduce what the hell they're talking about...
    Me, I don't have the slightest idea of what pandora or last.fm are.
    • It's two online services to help in finding music by suggesting music similar to what you've told it you listen to yourself, either via a media player plugin and simply playing the music, or telling it manually by submitting that information. The music is selected and played for free for you via an "intelligent" radio service, with the virtual "radio channel" personalized for you, rather than by a DJ, and some people see this as the future for online radio, or even music radio in general.

      They have vast mus
      • share music with each other

        Sorry, I mean "share music *opinions* with each other", as in discuss music with likeminded people. Not share music files or anything.
  • Pandora rocks (Score:2, Insightful)

    by grimner (646310)
    I've been using Pandora for a couple months now and have been *very* impressed with it's song choices. I haven't tried Last yet but from the description it sounds like Pandora has an advantage over Last in that you are more likely to find new music. I've found that about half of Pandora selections have been artists I haven't heard of. Truely refreshing. If you just want to find what other similar people are listening to you can always use Amazon Suggests. Nothing special there.
    • Re:Pandora rocks (Score:3, Insightful)

      by The_reformant (777653)
      I disagree in my view since pandora requires "expert reviewal" of each song to provide meta-data it is only ever going to recommend fairly mainstream bands. When I used my free trial this expectation was borne out.

      I also find that for specific sub-genres the meta-data isn't fine grained enough. You start to see bands which personally I would class as very different with almost identical meta-data. This is a problem with the way the reviews are structured. The reviews are performed by expert musicians BUT
  • As a user of Last.fm for a while now, I must say I quite enjoy the charts and the hookups to other users. I have the same problems as the author with its recommendations - but Last.fm seems to be aware of that problem too.

    Users receive personalized recommendations based on what they've played and last.fm has implemented a cool little interface that lets you choose between how popular or obscure your recommendations. For me, that seems to cut down on the misplaced music genere problem and actually generat
  • There is no competition. Social networks (like del.icio.us for websites) has shown us they're more reliable in the end. last.fm just needs a wider userbase and all our music knowledge are belong to them.
  • speaking of the social aspect of the service, there is a group for readers of slashdot at last.fm [www.last.fm]. i started it back when audioscrobbler first allowed groups, and there are 277 members as i type this. the charts reveal us as a crowd who do not diverge in a significant way from the rest of the last.fm population, which stands to reason, as at this point last.fm still attracts mostly geeky techie folk.
  • I just went to Pandora's website [pandora.com] and entered William Shatner as my starting artist and I got Scott Walker, Ulysses, and shocking as it may seem William Shatner. I got a kick out of their description of William Shatner's music though :-)
  • Okay I have a question someone on slashdot must know the answer to...

    Is anyone aware of how pandora determines the attributes of a particular song before it recommends it?

    Are they manually tagged by a human 'expert' or is there any automated algorithm that analyses the music?

    Now if pandora does utilize human experts surely pandora is going to come under enormous logistical pressure as its remit expands, whereas a social network like Last.fm will flourish?
  • It left out one of the biggest players -- Yahoo's Launchcast service.

    I have been using this service for the last 4 years, and it's helped me to discover LOTS of new bands and songs that I prior would not have known about. I simply click on how much I like an artist, and so it plays more songs from that artist or songs from similar artists. I can rate albums, songs, and artists themselves, so I am getting results based on how an album sounds, a song sounds, or an artist in general.

    So yea, Last.Fm is cool and
    • I've also used Launchcast quite a bit, and just like you I have found a bunch of new bands and songs.

      Has anyone used this and Pandora or Last.fm? I'd like to see the comparison between something I know and something I don't, as opposed to between two things I don't know at all.

      Also, this thread should contain semispamming in the form of bands we all have discovered using apps like these. I'll start by introducing The F-Ups. (No links or stuff like that. Google works...)

  • I've had a lot of luck with Pandora, but the downside is they want me to use a bare bones web-based player. What's their long term plan, to reinvent the wheel and evolve their own player? Pandora is a nice app for generating recommendations, but I couldn't imagine paying for it as is, since the player is way primitive and you can't get at the recommendation engine without listening to everything.

    I'd rather have an interface into Pandora's recommendation engine directly without the pretense of actually
  • by dfarcanjo (631428) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @09:54AM (#14615055)
    Liking a particular artist, CD or song is definitely not the same as not disliking it. I find a whole bunch of musicians OK, tolerable, or even nice-but-nothing-special. But that group (of the ones I don't dislike) is definitely not the same as those that I actually like. There's a huge gap there.

    I say that because after using both Pandora (less) and last.fm (more) for a while, I found out that although last.fm fails (gives me music I dislike) much less, Pandora's successes are more intense, even if less common. Last.fm finds a whole lot of stuff that's OK, but Pandora finds some stuff that's awesome.

    To me, one new artist I really like is worth hundreds of ones I don't care about.
  • Comments on last.fm (Score:3, Informative)

    by British (51765) <british1500@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @10:14AM (#14615183) Homepage Journal
    1. Excellent concept
    2. Excellent database of obscure music artists. Any name I threw at them, there was an entry for it. I even uploaded some album pics
    3. Friendly community

    and now the bad.

    1. The last.fm player is horrible. Horrible usability, and often I just get nothing for music. Can't use it at work. Prior buggy version muted itself unless you gave it exclusive focus.
    2. The audioscrobbler plug-in often refuses to handshake.
    3. The combination of both is a bit obfuscated.
    4. You see just how badly tagged Mp3s across the world are. You often find the wrong tracks, or 20 similarly-named tracks of the same song for an artist. Not last.fm's fault, but it would be nice someday to fuzzy logic them together.
    5. A bit bureaucratic in getting artist images uploaded. If it's an unpopular artist, it will never get the # of votes needed to surface.
    • note, i am just a recent last.fm user :)

      1. The last.fm player is horrible. Horrible usability, and often I just get nothing for music. Can't use it at work. Prior buggy version muted itself unless you gave it exclusive focus.

      ugh. is there anybody using it at all ? ;)
      given that amarok has builtin support... i never even took a look at that player

      2. The audioscrobbler plug-in often refuses to handshake.

      that is the part which sends the info ? well, can not comment on this one, as amarok... well... i hate to re
      • 5. A bit bureaucratic in getting artist images uploaded. If it's an unpopular artist, it will never get the # of votes needed to surface.

        haven't tried this yet, but maybe you can suggest better mechanism at their forums ?


        I discussed it on the forum, but no consensus. One suggestion was to ask a moderator to final approve it, but that would still be a pain in the butt.
  • Pandora wins (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gothzilla (676407) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @10:18AM (#14615206)
    The author missed so much about these services that I'm betting he was paid to push one over the other.
    There is one massive difference between the two that has been overlooked. When you put an artist into Last.fm, you get a list of bands. Okay. Good enough. Look at the bands. I typed in "Garbage" and all the bands at the top were bands who's songs have been overplayed on radio for a while, meaning I already know who they are. Thanks anyway.

    #18 was the first band I hadn't heard of. I checked them out and didn't like them so I moved on. #30 was next and by them I'm already down to only a 50% match. So tell me how does a service help if the only recommendations it has are bands I already know I like or don't like? How does this help if the only bands on it that I've never heard of are matched below 50%

    Putting "Garbage" into Pandora and I got a band I'd never heard of on the 3rd song. Put in Garbage again and totally different songs come up. Type in Garbage again Last.fm and what do you get? The exact same list.

    I decided to try a totally different band. I typed in Wumpscut. Here again, I already know all these bands and the first band I haven't heard is way down at 53% again. This doesn't help me because down there the bands sound totally different than the one I typed in.

    So what's the point in telling me other bands I might like if I've already over-heard those bands and already know whether or not I like them? Why give me the exact same list every time? I did't like the first one I want another. Pandora creates a true mix and exposes far more unknown music than Last.fm does.
    • Re:Pandora wins (Score:2, Interesting)

      by dmitrig (310579)
      Pretty much by definition, songs around the 50% mark are those that will take you out of your current musical comfort zone. That's a good thing. Think of the top of the list as confirming (if you generally like them) the validity of the lower part.
    • Re:Pandora wins (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shadwstalkr (111149)
      So what's the point in telling me other bands I might like if I've already over-heard those bands and already know whether or not I like them?

      Well it depends on how you want to use the service. If you're just trying to find new music then you're right, there is no point, but I prefer to use streaming radio as background noise. I want mostly songs that I like so I don't have to interrupt what I'm doing to skip, but if there are a lot of new songs I pay more attention to the music than my work. So for me,
    • I think last.fm's "similar artists" link is working the way that it is supposed to - it does what it says on the tin. The actual radio player works similarly to what it sounds like you want.

      If you want to find new stuff, start the radio and select "discovery mode" off the settings menu - it'll only play stuff it hasn't played before.

      If you hear something that you don't want to, hit "skip". It'll learn.

  • I use both... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Errandboy of Doom (917941) on Wednesday February 01, 2006 @10:25AM (#14615259) Homepage
    Here's [thelongtail.com] a good (extremely quick) breakdown of where they fit in conceptually.

    I suspect statistics will triumph over design, no matter how knowledgeable a group of musicologists you assemble. At the very least, statistics can do it faster and easier, because it skips the messy aesthetic questions and cuts right to behavior of peers (objective data).

    One example of this efficiency in action: Pandora has been struggling to include latin and classical music. Last.fm doesn't care if you listen to white noise all day long (as long as someone else is too).

    Pandora can behave unhelpfully if you program a station with a bunch of genre crossing interests (I've found that I have to compartmentalize my tastes into subgenres for Pandora to behave sensibly).

    But Pandora lets me compartmentalize my tastes for more accuracy. The Last.fm algorithm gets diluted by my punk interests when recommending new funk for me to listen to, and vice versa.

    And sometimes, when you're looking for recommendations, sometimes you don't just want to follow the crowd. Sometimes you want the help of an expert whose taste you admire, and sometimes you want something completely random.

    Wouldn't it be great if there was a way to create a station on Pandora using your top artists of the week in Last.fm automatically? Wouldn't it be great to import all your distates from Pandora into Last.fm?

    Who's got a script to hybridize these two, make them greater than the sum of their parts?
  • ...to integrate the two?

    Can we get a greasemonkey script or something to take our top artists from Last.fm and build a station on Pandora?

    Alternatively, I wish I could specify my distaste for certain artists in Last.fm...
  • Ever download songs from a P2P network? Songs that were tagged wrong, like any comedy song labelled Weird Al Yankovic? Or 90% of Talking Heads songs labelled Devo?

    The same problem applies to Last FM. I do lots of searching around for weird and obscure music, and all too often one of the highest Google hits will be a page on Last FM that's simply wrong.

    eg. The Crystal Method did not do a version of "Carol Of The Bells," TomAndAndy did. Once again, a potentially useful tool gets polluted by bad data and ignor
  • These services are great but once you found new music, you can't listen it. You first have to go to the shop and if you're lucky, you will find it (but more probably you won't). OTOH, there is plenty of legal free music on the internet, distributed by artists and labels. So why not to pick it?

    DJRate [djrate.com] just implements this idea. Still alpha but it works. You can find music by tags or by profile comparaison. Simple but efficient. And each time one adds a link, every one benefits. (end yes, more info about the
  • ...that Pandora (and perhaps Last.fm) is hampered by having an agreement with iTunes on the songs it can offer. If they haven't licensed it, they can't recommend it.

    Which is why it has limited benefit...if the record companies don't want you to try the music they designate as music you can try, you can't. This is were intellectual property leads - you can't play songs for friends who might want to buy it if they like it.

  • When I tried Pandora and Last, I discovered that Last has all those obscure bands were right there where I wanted them.

    They've got verything from British avant-rock pioneers This Heat to Japanese underground legend Keiji Haino with stops at New Zealand (Straightjacket Fits and Look Blue Go Purple) and '70s Germany (Faust, Can, and Popol Vuh).

    So I'm probably sticking with Last, though I've encountered a few problems (wonky Windows player, repeating tracks on "similar artist stations," etc.)
  • Amber MacArthur did a nice interview with the creator of Pandora. The creator explains his motivation, and the strengths behind his methodology. It may not be the "ideal" solution, but I personally don't think there is such a thing. The two most salient elements of the Pandora service include:
    a) Since it was created by someone who was a member of one of those "new" bands pining for recognition, he understands the importance of what he's doing.
    b)Just as you might suspect, once these kinds of services start b
  • I have been a last.fm user for many months and I just tried Pandora on reading this article. One of my big problems with last.fm was how inconsistent and meaningless its recommendations were. I had a punk chick over here the other day and considering she was a sex pistols fan and I had no sex pistols on my computer I tried last.fm and it kept playing songs that were embarrassingly unrelated to the sex pistols. I just tried Pandora with Nirvana and I like what I hear so far.
  • You know, the site that has being doing this sort of stuff for years, and was bought by Yahoo? How about comparing them to these (newer?) sites? Although, it is windows only, and the sound quality kind of sucks, even on high.
  • The thing I miss from Pandora is the ability to explore their database without listening to the music.

    Broadband is not free in New Zealand. Most broadband plans here are capped at a few gigabytes a month of traffic. I'd prefer not to spend all day pulling down a megabyte a minute just to explore new music...

    With last.fm (and its predecessor Audioscrobbler), I can explore the similar artist lists. Or, I can find someone with similar tastes to myself and see what they are listening to. Or, I can pick an

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