Last.fm went through a global makeover that made streaming music fans take a double-check or several. The revamp of this free music streaming service has brought with it a new layout that’ll make you wish they had stayed with the original. Absence of lyrics, no live content, and persistent issues when navigating the website have caused it to lose its footing against the likes of Spotify and Slacker Radio.
They changed things
Last.fm, now using Spotify as its default streaming source, provides song recommendations based on the tracks you listen to. It gets this information through Scrobbler, a free music player plug-in that monitors iTunes, Windows Media Player, and other music players on your computer and mobile devices, to determine what you listen to and make relevant recommendations.
So, how do you find music?
For instance, listening to a music track on iTunes would lead it to recommend other songs from the artist, along with similar tracks of the same genre. Last.fm generates a custom station based on these recommendations, which makes it a lot easier to discover tracks you might be interested in. This custom station lets you skip an unlimited number of tracks, unlike most free music streaming services, which makes it an invaluable feature.
It’s also possible to use Last.fm to stream music without installing Scrobbler. Just use the search box to look for tracks or browse the Music section. Although you can’t search tracks by genre, there is an option to use tags instead (if they are present). Searching for a band name, for example, would display a list of all the songs available from them, along with similar tracks. The Music section, on the other hand, gives you access to the most popular tracks and artists in the Last.fm community.
The Play button shows up when you hover the mouse over a particular track. Clicking the artist name will take you to their page, which hosts a biography along with a list of their most popular tracks on Last.fm, pictures, concert venues, and other related information. These extras are great, but the absence of lyrics and live content leaves a lot to be desired.
In case of emergency, YouTube
As we mentioned earlier, Last.fm now uses Spotify as its default streaming platform. But it also gives you an option to switch to YouTube, if you so prefer. If Last.fm can’t find an artist or a track in the Spotify library, it will automatically look for it on Youtube, which is pretty nifty.
Moving on to the audio quality, we found it to be as good as Slacker Radio, which is quite satisfactory. Although Youtube tracks quality varied from being good to utterly terrible, which is what you’d expect from a service that lets users upload any content they wish.
Most likely because of its beta status, Last.fm’s handling of the Spotify streams is riddled with glitches. In some instances, it tries to open the Spotify website in another window to play the track, while other times plays it through the Last.fm homepage. Another issue that we encountered was continuing playback even after the browser had been closed. It simply goes to show that Last.fm is still a long way from perfect.
Live section is there, but
Last.fm does have a live content section, but it doesn’t contain live audio and instead shows real-time information of what’s hot in the Last.fm global community. If you’re looking to indulge in a niche genre, this isn’t the option for you as the top 20 tracks almost always are the likes of Coldplay, Adele or Justin Bieber.
Should you give it a chance?
Collaboration with Spotify for its services is hardly surprising as there have been various other streaming music consolidations recently, like the acquisition of Rdio by Pandora Radio.
But Last.fm has downgraded itself from a stable music streaming service to a less stable beta version, at least for now. If Scrobbler and the event information feature sound interesting to you, give Last.fm a go, but if you’re looking for a quality audio streaming experience, Spotify and Slacker Radio remain the better choice.