I generally loathe radio - specifically modern corporate radio. The limited playlists and cookie-cutter mentality of these behemoths don't exactly have me jumping up and down in anticipation of the latest Fergie or Mudvayne track.
So when it was suggested to me that I could in effect create my own radio station, the idea was intriguing enough to investigate.
Billed as the "social music revolution," Last.fm is a London-based operation that launched in 2002. The site makes available 3.5 million audio tracks which listeners can enjoy on their computer. The songs are added to the user's profile from which charts and recommendations are gauged. This can lead to all kinds of interaction with other users from around the globe in the form of "Neighbours" - note the British spelling - or invitations to Groups who share certain musical tastes.
So powerful is the site's reach (reportedly over 21 million active users) that CBS Interactive bought the company last May for $280 million.
Oh yeah, and it's free.
I hastily created a user name (KansasGuy) and decided to grab 25 of the most eclectic tracks from an array of favored artists. Only one proved unavailable as a full song (a Trip Shakespeare cut), but the others were a tasty mix that admittedly made little thematic sense. It was just stuff I enjoy, from Allman Brothers to PJ Harvey to Ben Harper to Deep Purple to The Runaways.
Once that was assembled, I played a track ("In the City" by The Jam) to see what the Neighbours had to say (PrivateHell called it "Sheer brilliance," while Pattrick quipped "I don't think there is a song that is more enjoyable to listen to").
Each track featured a write-up about the band and various other radio station suggestions that sprung from that selection. In this case, I could jump to Last.fm stations that played either "mod," "British" or "new wave." Or I could head to specific recommended bands such as Style Council or The Specials.
But after about three hours of noodling, I decided to experiment a little.
So I created another username in order to download some of the worst songs in history to see what kind of Neighbours that attracted.
Thus I launched my new alter ego, SonicCretin, into the online community armed with a grotesque playlist that boasted "Barbie Girl" by Aqua, "We Built This City" by Jefferson Starship, "Party All the Time" by Eddie Murphy, "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)" by Big & Rich, "Doggie in the Window" by Patti Page and William Shatner's psychotic version of "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds."
SonicCretin now belongs to a Last.fm group dubbed Crimes Against Music, and has attracted several Neighbours whose interests include "eating paint" and "burning things."