Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Radio Free Europe

I have one grant due in 24 hours, the NYFA grant due Monday, and three literary magazine deadlines Monday as well for good measure. Basically, I have a week-long excercise in futility. I'm clearly blogging to procrastinate, but I thought I'd pass along some of the small pleasures of being chained to a 1000 character description of a 300 page novel. No, it's not the writing, it's the music- the free music singing in my laptop.

Started in East London by music promoters and based on a computer science project, Last.fm bills itself as the social music revolution. Type in an artist, and it will start playing music that is similar. It plays music based on recommendations by both you and millions of other listeners, a system they call "audioscrobble". For example, I just typed Arcade Fire and last.fm started playing Editors, a Brit rock group that I happen to also like, so on the radio bar I clicked on the heart. When you are registered and signed in, last.fm tracks the music you love and hate, then filters it through a statistical comparison with millions of other listeners. You don't need to register to start listening to music, but I would suggest it, plus registration is free. Every time you are signed in and listening to music and giving it a yay, nay, or skip, last.fm tracks it and audioscrobbles the results. The more feedback you give it, the better your own personal radio station will be. It's alot of fun, especially when you start mixing artists and genres, and I've discovered some great music because of it.

The social bit comes in because you get a music profile that is shared with millions, and you can flit around the site, kind of like myspace. I don't do that so much, but every now and then I'll check out what music people who are statistically like me listen to. It really kills the unique factor of one's personal taste.

If you do want to subscribe ($3/month), you can customize your own radio station, and make your own playlist from their massive music library. They used to let you put in multiple artists and listen to different genres at once. Now you can only put in an artist at a time, so making a playlist with the songs you love is one way to be able to listen to both Jay Z and Bettye Swann.

The catch? Not a whole lot. While registering and listening to music is free, they have 20 million listeners so when the servers are jammed it's the subscribers who get first dibs on the "airwaves". I don't really have a problem with it because I listen when everyone else is at work here. That said, they do have listeners in 232 countries, it's just past rush hour somewhere in the world. Also, Last.fm is not TiVo, you cannot play a song on demand. There is no downloading, either, unless the artist allows it- and most don't.

And last but not least, a jazz radio station in Paris, TSF, streams its music live. Just click on "Eccouter L'Antenne" and you'll hear some of the best jazz being played. They do a lot of old school stuff, and a little bit of the new. This is no elevator jazz, TSF is the real deal.


Ms. M&P said...

Love the suggestions! I'm definitely going to try them out. You know about Pandora.com, right? I listen to it all the time. It sounds a lot like the stations you described.

PiggyBankBlues said...

i've heard of it, but i haven't been. i'll check it out, thanks!