Last.fm is a great service that takes your listening habits and recommends you music based upon the artists and genres you listen to. It collects this data by “scrobbling” your music, which just means that as you play a song through iTunes, Spotify, etc. Last.fm “listens” along with you and adds the track to your listening library so it can show you bands/songs you’ll probably enjoy as well. The service itself is rather helpful, but it can affect you in sinister ways if you’re not mindful (or overly mindful) of your scrobbling.
The first and most obvious consequence of mindless scrobbling is that people can see that guilty pleasure album you love so much. That’s right: your routine Thursday night listens of Nickelback’s “All the Right Reasons” are being broadcast to anyone that follows you on Last.fm as well as being added to your public listening profile. Luckily, this problem can be fixed in one of two ways: 1. Disable scrobbling when listening to your shame albums. 2. Stop being ashamed of your music taste and just listen to what you listen to.
Now, with that basic issue out of the way, we can get down to the nitty gritty. Being overly mindful of your scrobbling can lead to a lot of undue pain and suffering. In my case, I’ve become incredibly anal about the way my music is tagged because of how it will be added to my Last.fm listening library. Sometimes, if an album doesn’t have the artists formatted properly so that the song’s feature(s) are lumped into the artist category instead of added to the track name coughSpotifycough, I won’t listen to it. It seems like a rather petty reason to not listen to an album, but when I think about how my music is presented to the world it makes me pause. There’s plenty of music to listen to that has these requirements filled, so why should I waste my time? It seem like a rather benign issue from the outside, but nothing should have such a hold on the music that I listen to, especially because of how shallow my reasoning is.
Then, with being overly mindful of your scrobbling, comes the idea that your taste in music actually matters to other people. Websites that allow you to make readily shareable album art collages of your listening habits on Last.fm makes this even worse. The collages even affect the music you listen to, because who wants uninteresting or plain album art next to that sweet oil painting for that 67 minute long black metal epic you’ve been digging on so much? Eventually you’ll end up posting your collages on your social media accounts and wait for people to comment on it about how cool you are or drop a like because of the sheer number of great albums you listened to this week. I’m not saying you shouldn’t share your music tastes with like-minded individuals, just be aware of how social pressure factors into what you press play on.
It’s not like I don’t turn scrobbling off every once in a while so I can just enjoy listening to an album without broadcasting it to the world, but most of the time I don’t want to. There’s an allure to scrobbling that I can’t, or maybe don’t want to, put my finger on. There are even times where I won’t listen to an album promo I’ve received weeks in advance of the official release date. I’ll wait until it releases officially because then I can finally scrobble it and show my various friends on Facebook that I’ve heard it. I don’t think there’s a problem with the service Last.fm offers, it’s in the way that I handle it. Just like anything else, when it’s in the hands of someone who can’t use it responsibly, it becomes something that’s much more of a hindrance than a help. So before you go and make that Last.fm account, ask yourself if you can handle what comes afterwards.