OneManOffice: Last.fm

Ok, so maybe this doesn’t exactly fit into to my series on free (or cheap) tools for your single person office, but I think it does.  The right music helps me work better.  When I’m writing, instrumental jazz (especially John Coltrane) or choral music (especially Zadok the Priest) keeps me in my groove.  When I’m taking care of repetitive tasks, music that I haven’t heard before eats up all of my “distraction energy” and helps me stay on task.  Physical work, like cleaning my office, is when I turn to podcasts.  

Here’s the problem, though: I’m cheap, I haven’t added substantially to my music collection since college, and I get bored listening to the same stuff too much.  I purchase maybe 2 CDs a year, usually for my wife, and I worry that if I get too used to buying stuff from iTunes, I’ll blow my entertainment budget.  So where do I find music? 

That’s where Last.fm comes in.  Last.fm provides free music streaming (among other things) based on artists that you like or tags (such as “bebop” or “cool jazz”). You don’t even have to join to start using their service: you can start a music stream from their home page.  That’s how I started using it.  Have I mentioned that I love software or websites that give you a free trial period or offer a free level of service without commitment?  I really don’t want to pay $150 or give you my entire life story before I know whether I like the program.  Like I said, I’m cheap. 

Here’s the home page:

Last.fm Home Page

Last.fm also lets you download a free program to your computer that acts as a client for their webservice.  It also connects with iTunes (also free).  If you register for Last.fm, you can build up your profile, storing tracks that you listen to, so that you can show your friends or connect with people with similar tastes.  I’ve never been much for making friends over shared musical tastes, but I know that’s important to some people. 

The desktop client:

Last.fm Desktop Client

 

Loved and Banned Tracks at Last.fm

I especially value Last.fm for introducing me to new music or new genres.  For example, I love John Coltrane.  While listening to a John Coltrane station a few weeks ago, I was introduced to Horace Silver, and now I love Horace Silver!  Earlier this week, I heard some soul on the Muzak of a restaurant, and thought, “Hm, I think I like soul music.  Do I?”  A couple of hours of listening to soul at Last.fm, and yep, I do indeed like (most) soul. 

But I learned that I don’t like all soul music.  Some, in fact, I hate. What to do?  Last.fm lets you “love” or “ban” tracks and save them to your profile.  Banned tracks will never be played for you again.  Nice. Sorry Chaka Khan – you just aren’t my type.  

There’s a lot more that you can do with Last.fm, but I love programs that I can dip into, use for my purposes, and that’s it.  I just want some nice music to help me stay happy and productive, and that’s exactly what Last.fm provides.  

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