Last.fm has one feature that is keeping it going: personal charts, radio and recommendations that are the results of years of scrobbling in some cases: glorious heaven for all the statistic loving music nerds around the world.
Yet somewhere along the line, Last.fm forgot how to be exciting, social and even how to be a proper tool for musicians. I fear now Last.fm is heading in a similar direction as Myspace has been for the past year: oblivion. Many people do have a Last.fm account, but what percent (still) deems it an essential part of their online experience? Who still uses it for anything but scrobbling (and possibly listening)?
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Last.fm missed the train to essentialville. Which is a shame. A lot of people still go to Myspace for the music player and bands know this, thus they still use Myspace. Facebook has its own music player and it’s a matter of time until the majority switches. Likewise, people still use Last.fm because of the scrobbling music feature and personal radio. But like Myspace isn’t going to survive because of the music player, it is only a matter of time before Last.fm is replaced. For Last.fm to grow and survive, it needs to evolve and it needs to evolve fast.
Here’s 5 ways:
- Better profiles – Yes, the stats are nice, but profile-wise there isn’t a lot you can do on Last.fm. Users have been putting badges and images in their “About me”-fields for years, yet Last.fm failed to recognise the need for a “badge”-field. Why not make that a feature? You can adjust your profiles to the way your users try to use them. It will make the website more fun to use and less likely to fade into oblivion.
- Improve the features for artists and labels. Last.fm’s Music Manager is much better than Myspace reporting and administrating features used to be. Still, it’s no Bandcamp either. If Last.fm can improve their artist features, fans will follow their idols. The Last.fm community could benefit from special features, like rewarding top fans with a free track from their favourite band or with free plays and/or premiering new songs on on Last.fm instead of elsewhere?
- Continuing the Bandcamp-comparison. Bandcamp doesn’t try to be a full-blown social network – instead it draws strength from the possiblity to embed their tools in official websites, social networks and other platforms. You still get the detailed tools from Bandcamp, but the visitors of your other (bigger) platforms. Meanwhile, Last.fm has been writing mediocre tools for Facebook that you have to update manually. Nobody wants that. So make better, exciting tools that people can embed on Facebook or other networks. If other people like them, they’ll sign up to make their own.
- Use your plug-ins, apps and software. While there are iPhone and Android apps, they don’t enhance social features enough. While you’re using the app you should be able to use the shoutbox, easily recommend tracks to friends, view updates in your music network… And share all that on other social networks with a fingertip. And why haven’t they created a truly mind-blowing iPad 2 experience? The phone apps looks gorgeous, so the designers are there… Oh, and make all your apps available worldwide already… Just saying.
- The Last.fm community page features stats like “32 million scrobbles everyday” and “409 scrobbles in the last second.” Cool. But what are these stats doing on my community page? When I login, shouldn’t this page know I’ve been using Last.fm for years and help me make it more fun? By showing a social version of the login homepage (which features recent additions to your library and what your friends are listening to now), with new suggestions and features?
Since CBS acquired Last.fm, the music network should be upping their game, not continue acting as if it is the next indie website on the block. There was a time when people were proud to become a subscriber for a couple of euros per month. Those times have gone and people have been falling out of love with the website since changes to the subscription plan were made and listening to music became a paid feature in most countries. Since then, the website has been acting surprisingly traditional for what is supposed to be a hip and happening website. The result: it is no longer hip and happening and besides the scrobbling and streaming features the website is lacking in many ways. And there will be other websites like that. One of these days, either Spotify or another competitor will improve their radio features and that could be the final blow for Last.fm. And when that happens, Last.fm won’t last much longer.