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You're the DJ on Last.fm

Dateline: 08/04/04

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Last.fm is a streaming radio station with a revolutionary concept. The software that powers Last.fm learns its users' musical tastes and plays a personalized radio program to each listener. The founders of Last.fm believe that profiling and collaborative filtering can completely change the way how music gets distributed.

Instead of pushing content to consumers, Last.fm lets the people decide what they want or don't want to hear. Record labels and listeners alike will benefit from this innovative approach.

With the digitalization of music the net has become the biggest record collection in the world. Having access to all those millions of files does not guarantee that you will get exactly what you want, especially if you want something new and fresh.

Searching for new music has so far been based on keywords and musical categories. But language is not an ideal way of describing music. Last.fm think that the music should speak for itself. They have found a simple mechanism how fresh tunes find open ears.

From the first moment a new user tunes into Last.fm a live stream is being played. If you like the song you simply do nothing and let it play to the end. The system will interpret this as a thumbs up and add this particular song to your profile. If you don't like it you press the 'skip' button.

By deciding where exactly you point the computer mouse you can choose to play a song either more similar or more different to your existing profile. Last.fm calls this process 'profile surfing'. You don't select particular songs or genres but you navigate the profiles of people who have a similar taste. Its like popping over to a friends house and browsing through his or her record collection. Because you have similar preferences chances are good that you will find something that you don't know yet but are very likely to enjoy.

Last.fm originally grew out of a small online community of music producers called insine.net. Sharing an online platform for independently produced music they thought that there is something in there that should be available to a larger group of participants.

This rapid development became possible after Last.fm merged its work forces with Audioscrobbler. Audioscrobbler had created a client based profiling system similar to Last.fm's, but without an output channel. It was only logical to co-operate. Now the crew is coding away in long shifts in their office south of Whitechapel in London. Watching them leaves no doubt that writing new software for audio on the net is the new rock n' roll.

"We are all still in this age group where we want to play the power chord," says Felix Miller, one of the founders of Last.fm. According to him and his friends, the music industry has specialized in pushing music to people. Last.fm lets the music find the listener by harvesting collective knowledge about music. Thereby it lets everybody become a radio dj. The 'mainstream of minorities' is driven to its extreme.

- From A Last.fm Press Release

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