Jul 31, 2009

Online Radio - usage and alternatives to last.fm - A guide for Europe

last.fm logo
was a very cool website. It was free, it was hip, it kept getting better.

Add a few years and the free part is dropped out, as it often happens.

What does this wonderful site have that makes it so wonderful and worth me writing about it?

All it did, or its core fuction is to gather information about its users listening habits.  What do you listen to and when do you listen to it. From that it does the following:
  • Customized radios: you can pick a genre, friend, yourself or an artist, and it will play either songs that are related to what you picked or simply popular concerning what you picked. This means that with the click of a button you can listen to your friends music collection. Or even, you could listen to a radio composed of your favorites songs. Or even just listen to radio that plays music you don't know,  based on your tastes in regard to other similar users.

  • Recommendations: As  mentioned before, last.fm can pickup what you like. It then finds similar users and recommends to you the stuff that they like, and that you don't know about. It's likely that this way you will find new music that you enjoy. Also, it will recommend concerts of band, based on your taste.

And it's basically this that makes last.fm so cool: costumized radios and recommendations.

Costumized radios were stripped away from the free version.  If you live in a rich (ad-saturaded) country like UK, US or Germany it's still free.

Otherwise if  you are willing to pay the 3€ a month,  I think it is worth it.

Keeping it strictly free: the recommendations alone are a good reason to keep using this site.

Another reason that you might want to keep using this site and not another, is that so far, certain players, like Foobar and MusicIP, only support last.fm , and not other similar services.

Which leads us into our next question:
Are there any similar FREE services that are equal or better?

For me, no. I use last.fm for recommendations and I use foobar as a player.

But i still like listening to online radio.

So, testing a lot of the current available online radio services, I concluded the following:
They all suck.

Normal online radios are still the way to go. Just open your favorite Shoutcast stream in Foobar or other player and let the last.fm application store your listening habits for better recommendations.

As for the best online radio services, if you live in Europe you should go for Accuradio or Deezer.

Links here: Accuradio and Deezer.

For things like this you can get a Firefox lastfm plugin, like DAS - A Deezer to Last.fm bridge or LastFM Firefox Extension. Links here and here.  These will pass the tracks you listen to in  sites like Deezer to your lastfm account. LastFM Firefox Extension is clearly the best of the two as is supports more websites.

These sites don't have the ability to learn what you like.  But the thematic radios are really good.

As a final note: if you live in the fatter richer countries you have more options, and you can use other recommendations services. But right now I don't care to test them as I'm not in one of those Germanic nations.

But feel free to comment on this post and add your recommendations.

Hope this was useful.

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