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  • Help Last.fm build a music fingerprint database!!!

    30 aug 2007, 08:19 av LANjackal

    In an attempt to clean up the submissions process, the Last.fm team has decided to create a music database. To do this, it needs to gather information on users' music libraries via audio fingerprinting, done by an application available at the original official blog post here.

    Not to worry, your files aren't altered in any way, but you'll have to sign in via the app to prevent spamming and malicious submissions.

    Fingerprinting doesn't have be done all at once, the app can remember where if left off and pick up from there if interrupted.

    All you have to do is download, install, and then sign in. Tell the app where your music library is via a directory tree listing and go. It'll do the rest, while keeping you updated on the time taken to analyze each track as well as the total time elapsed and remaining. Looks like it's gonna take around 11 hours on this end, so if you have a large library I'd suggest running it overnight or when you're out to work. Here's a screenshot of it running on my PC:



    I posted a question in the comments to the original blog announcement as to whether the fingerprinting feature would eventually be folded into the mainline client so as to deal with new additions to music libraries.

    Speaking of comments, ignore the usual bitching in most of them. I'm running the app with no issues whatsoever on Windows Vista Home Premium.

    Anyway, the point is, Last.fm needs your help, so buck up :)
  • A few preliminary Friends Survey findings

    23 aug 2007, 04:52 av popgurl

    My colleague and I have begun data analysis. Here are some early descriptive findings about Last.fm friendships you might find interesting. This is all still preliminary. PLEASE DO NOT QUOTE OR USE THIS ELSEWHERE without talking to me first!

    After data cleaning (eliminating partial surveys, eliminating minors' surveys, eliminating those with no friends -- I'll use the no-friends data in qualitative analyses), there were responses from 559 people in 47 countries who had at least one friend on Last.fm.

    THERE ARE MANY CROSS-SEX FRIENDSHIPS ON LAST.FM:

    Most (51.6%) of the friendships are between people of the same-sex, though there were many (46.6%) cross-sex friendships.

    THOUGH THERE ARE FRIENDSHIPS THAT SPAN BIG AGE DIFFERENCES, MOST ARE THE SAME AGE:

    The mean age difference between friends was 0.89 years

    MORE LAST.FM FRIENDSHIPS ARE INTERNATIONAL THAN LOCAL:

    40.4% of friends live in different countries. 25.4% in the same country. 10% in the same part of the country. 16% in the same town, and 5% in the same neighborhood.

    MANY LAST.FM FRIENDS HAVE MET FACE-TO-FACE:

    41% of Last.fm friends have met face-to-face. 9% of those met only once, 14% more than once but not often, 17% used to see one another but don’t anymore, 40.5% see one another regularly, and 7.5% see one another all the time.

    MANY WHO HAVE NOT WOULD LIKE TO, THOUGH SOME HAVE NO INTEREST:

    Of the 59% who have not met face-to-face, 59% would meet their friend were it convenient, 7% would go out of their way to meet their friend, 7% have plans to meet their friend, and 15.6% are not interested in meeting their friend.

    FOR THOSE WHO USE THEM, THERE IS A LOT OF OVERLAP BETWEEN LAST.FM FRIENDS AND FRIENDS ON OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES:

    66% use other social networking sites such as MySpace or Facebook, 34.2 don’t.

    Of those who use other social networking sites, 51% of the Last.fm friends are also friends on another site.
  • Friends Survey Update

    17 aug 2007, 18:16 av popgurl

    Some of you know I posted a survey about Friending on Last.fm in late June. Many of you were kind enough to even fill it out! Here's an update:

    I closed the survey today after breaking 700 responses from people in 51 different countries. My initial thought had been that I'd be satisfied with 200 and thrilled with 400. Needless to say, 700 is very exciting. It will allow me to do much more powerful statistical analyses of the quantitative elements, and much richer analysis of the qualitative components.

    I'm still waiting to hear from human subjects whether I'll be able to use the 90 responses from people who were under 18. I said you had to be 18 to fill it out, but that didn't stop some folks. I've asked my university's human subjects committee to allow me to use their responses.

    I don't know how long it's going to take to get things done from here. I've got a very full plate of projects, but I've enlisted a collaborator -- a former Ph.D. student of mine who's a quantitative whiz -- and I'm sure that will help speed things along. I'm itching to see what the data have to say, so I'm hoping things will proceed relatively quickly. But relatively quickly in academic time can be VERY slowly in real time.

    I hope to at least post some descriptive summaries on here in the next few weeks.

    Thanks again to everyone for being so supportive, not least the staff of Last.fm, especially Spencer Hyman, Martin Stiksel, and Russ Garrett for their approvals, endorsements, and stickies, and to the many individuals who posted about it in their own journals and their friends' shoutboxes. It worked!
  • Paper about online Swedish Indie Music fandom

    14 aug 2007, 20:06 av popgurl

    I've just published a paper about how the online community of Swedish indie music fans spreads itself out across multiple sites and platforms. It's in an online journal for those who might be interested in reading it. Though I'm told that one paragraph toward the end sounds awfully academic-scary, the rest is meant to be quite readable for non-academics. I'm doing a followup study now, so any comments you have about the scene or general phenomena I discuss are most appreciated.

    Reference:

    The new shape of online community: The example of Swedish independent music fandom by Nancy K. Baym. First Monday, volume 12, number 8 (August 2007)

    Abstract

    Online groups are taking new forms as participants spread themselves amongst multiple Internet and offline platforms. The multinational online community of Swedish independent music fans exemplifies this trend. This participant–observation analysis of this fandom shows how sites are interlinked at multiple levels, and identifies several implications for theorists, researchers, developers, industry and independent professionals, and participants.
  • All Linkin Park Songs LOOK The Same

    12 aug 2007, 16:57 av Babs_05

    As if we didn't already know, here's the proof:

    What I've Done



    Faint



    Somewhere I Belong



    Crawling



    Numb



    Lying from You




    It's too funny not to point and laugh at!!

    Each image above shows the audio level in (roughly) the first 90 seconds of a Linkin Park song. The tempo has been adjusted for a few tracks for better visual alignment.

    What this goes to prove is just how generic and formulaic Linkin Park are... or a lot of music from a lot of genres, come to think of it.

    Listen to enough mainstream music on a daily basis and it's hard not to start feeling bored with the fascinating intro, followed by the oh so surprising start (not), followed by a bit of filler till you get to the chorus, which is usually, what, about five words on repeat?

    Basically, you know the whole song within the first 30 seconds. The rest is more of the same. If you're unlucky, the first track on an album sets the scene, the rest is more of the same. And if you're really musically illiterate, the first song on the first album sets the scene, the entire discography from that point on is just more of the same. I give you Linkin Park as a prime example, but also throw in The Strokes because they illustrate the point even better.

    From a punter's point of view, if we're just after some sonic wallpaper, this is enough. A bit of a hook here, a catchy melody there, they make money, we have a laugh. Job done. In this sense, they're the commodity, we're the consumers. It's not music, it's merchandising. This is what the music industry is all about. They seduce us into buying the same song in various guises over and over again. Not only that, they make us think it's a good idea. Is there any other industry that gets us to buy the same thing again and again? On this scale?

    *gets off soap box, dusts it down, ready for the next person*



    Source for images: here
  • If you like this artist, you'll also like...

    5 aug 2007, 04:45 av LANjackal

    Yet another music matching tool out there, people. Enter musiclens, the site that allows you to find artists you may like (or group artists you already know) by adjusting various sliders in different categories and seeing the real-time results on a 3D map and recommendation list.

    The factor categories are (and their extrema):

    Volume (Ear Busting <--> Silent)
    Tempo (Fast <--> Slow)
    Voice (Instrumental <--> Vocal)
    Size (Orchestra <--> Slow)
    Purpose (Listening <--> Dance)
    Sex (Male <--> Female)
    Age (0, 10, ... <--> More)
    Mood (Smile <--> Angry)
    Color (Spectrum)
    Year

    I tried it, adjusting the sliders to what I think is representative of the type of music I normally enjoy the most. Below is what I got:



    I listen to 6/8 of the artists listed below the graph: Korn, P.O.D., N*E*R*D, Beck, Lamb and LL Cool J. That's 7.5/10, not bad at all for the site. What's impressive is that the results are fairly genre-spanning. Who'd have thought LL Cool J'd be correctly recommended alongside Korn without having any prior knowledge of the user's scrobbling record? Amazing.

    Oh by the way, for those who are familiar with the other artists that I don't listen to (because I haven't heard them yet), could you recommend me something by them? Fans of Sinitta and Manowar, now's your chance to be heard ;)

    Try it yourself, see what you get and post back about it!
  • Survey about Last.fm Friends: Please Help!

    28 jun 2007, 14:51 av popgurl

    -- This survey is now closed. I got lots of responses, THANK YOU! I will be posting summaries of findings to my journal but it will be some time before the analyses are ready to share. Thanks again --

    Last.fm uses the term “friend” to describe all of the one-to-one connections we make with each other on this site, but what kind of connections are we really forming here, and what does the term “friend” really mean to us?

    I’m conducting a survey to answer these questions and I’m asking for your help. I’m a longtime Last.fm user and a Communication professor at the University of Kansas (USA) who specializes in online relationships and fandom (my KU website is here). Whether you’ve got any “friends” on Last.fm or not, I’d love to hear your perspective on these questions.

    I’ve posted the survey here:

    http://nancybaym.lastfmfriends.sgizmo.com

    It takes about 15 minutes to complete and is completely anonymous.

    This study is being done in my own capacity as an academic researcher, not by or for Last.fm. The results will be presented in academic papers. I’ll share those papers with Last.fm, which will give them more insight into how we use the site.

    When you click on the link above, you will see an information page that is required by the Human Subjects Committee at my university. That describes the study in a bit more detail. You do have to be 18 or older to participate. Unfortunately, I don’t have the resources to offer you anything but my gratitude in return for your participation, but you might find it interesting, and the results will be important in helping all of us – users, scholars, and site developers – better understand the nature of online connections in social networking sites like this. Again, you do not have to have any “friends” on Last.fm to participate. I am interested in why people don’t make those connections too.

    Thank you in advance and feel free to PM me or ask here if you have any questions!

    Nancy Baym (aka popgurl)
    Associate Professor of Communication Studies
    University of Kansas, USA
  • How the Internet Transformed What it Means To Be A Music Fan (The Short Version)

    28 jun 2007, 06:17 av popgurl

    This is a short essay I wrote for something that’s not going to happen afterall, so I thought I’d post it on my blog and here instead.

    Music has always been about connecting with other people. Sure it fills our hearts, lifts our spirits, and all that good stuff, but it also gives us a rack to hang our hats on. We identify ourselves in terms of the music we like. Music is one of the topics new acquaintances talk most about and some reliable predictions about other people can be made based on musical taste alone. We know this from experience, and research bears it out as well.

    When I was coming of musical age in an Illinois college town in the late 1970s and early 1980s there were two, and only two, places to be and be seen: the independent record store and wherever the local bands and the smaller touring acts played. As soon as I was old enough to take a bus, I was hanging out at the record store after school. As soon as I was old enough to sneak into bars, my social life was built on which bands were playing when and who was hosting the afterparty. Those places still matter (though the indie record stores are sadly disappearing), but layered on top, around, and woven through those there are now countless websites.

    Contrary to popular conception, the use of the internet for music fandom did not begin with MySpace. Many very early users of what became the internet were hardcore Star Trek loving Deadheads. No sooner had they realized that this computer network they were making might be good for something more than distributing data backups than they started using it as fans, designing new architectures to help them connect around the pop culture phenomena they loved . There’s a strong argument to be made that fans connecting to other fans have been a driving force in the internet’s continual evolution. As we use the internet to reach one another and maximize the fan experience, fans are becoming increasingly important forces in the evolution of the music industry. We’re not just consumers anymore. We’re critics, promoters, retailers, organizers, and sometimes relational partners, redistributors, or reconfigurers (and, depending on who you ask, thieves).

    The fact that people use the internet to socialize around music comes as no surprise. Using social groups as an excuse to indulge in music and using music as a way to connect to social groups have roots as old as music itself. But the internet changes the dynamics of being a fan, and the relationships amongst fans, musicians and labels. The internet’s got five qualities that together make this possible.

    The internet transcends space: Music used to be intensely local. Eventually touring, and later recording and broadcasting, meant that the music could spread beyond its place of origin, but fans couldn’t. Sure we could throw the sleeping bag in the Volkswagen minibus and join a roving commune of Deadheads, but we couldn’t do that and go to school or hold down a full time job at the same time. Our ability to reach other fans was based on who was in our local circles, and our access to magazines, fan club mailings, and other media that already had the power to transcend space. Now we connect to other fans in far off places without going anywhere. Lots of us do it from work. We’re all together nowhere and everywhere. This has implications – we can find a critical mass of other people who are into obscure tastes. We can find music from far off places we might never have heard. Acts that would never be heard outside their region get heard all over the world, and fans discuss and dissect what they hear in networks spread throughout and across nations.

    The internet transcends time: The thing about record stores and bars is that they have hours of operation, and if you can’t be there then, you can’t be involved. The internet is always on. Forums, blogs, and social networking sites let us connect with other fans and find the artists we love or will love on our own time. This, along with the transcendence of space, means that many more people can actively participate in groups socializing around music. The band may not be playing, but their fans are still congregating. The afterparty may not be as fun without physical copresence, but it never ends.

    The internet offers unparalleled reach: It used to be that a really lucky fan might get a show on the local radio station, but there was no way we could have a regional or national, let alone international stage. The access barriers were too high. It’s still not a world of equality, but the internet is the first communication medium in history that gives an individual the same technical platform for communicating to a mass audience as a multinational corporation. Sites built and driven by fans are frequently more successful at rallying fans than those built by musicians, let alone labels. Participation in fan sites dwarfs participation in official sites across the internet. Bloggers have become at least as important as professional music critics. Individuals have as big a stage as they have the energy, talents, and persistence to make for themselves. Bands aren’t the only ones “making it” through the internet. Increasing numbers of fans are finding industry employment through devoting time to their passion on the internet. Others are appropriately content to find that their newly expanded reach offers them access to a small set of likeminded cohorts they would never have otherwise found.

    The internet is permanent, archived, and searchable: Conversation is gone when it’s over. The party is passed when it’s ended. Most of what goes on online (at least in venues that don’t depend on real-time interaction) is still sitting there, indexed by Google and waiting for your hit. We can eavesdrop on discussions that happened months and even years ago. This means that over time fans can – and do – build impressive collaborative databases of music knowledge. Fan sites are goldmines of detailed discographies, concert chronologies, lyrics, tablatures, and so on. Fans have always been experts, but the internet enables them to take this expertise far beyond what any individual could ever offer and to make it visible and usable to others elsewhere.

    The internet transcends social distance: In the internet’s early days, optimists daydreamed that once online, all those things we use to judge each other — things like race, sex, age, and appearance — would stop mattering. That was wrong, they still matter online, in all the same troubling ways they matter everywhere else. But even as people recreate social distance in online spaces, there are also ways in which distance is transcended. Take, for instance, the relationship between musician and fan. Pete Townshend’s been quoted as saying that on account of blogging, “at a concert where the Who play to what looked like 20,000 roaring people I also have a more intimate sense of connection with some of the audience.” Lesser musicians go trolling for online ‘friends’ in social network sites, and once every great while, on MySpace and elsewhere, through online interaction the term ‘friend’ comes to mean something more like “friend” than “fan.” As Thomas Dolby recently told the industry:

    There’s been an interesting evolution on the relationship between the industry and fans. It’s not crystal clear yet. Music fans and musicians belong to each other. The role and the obligation of the intermediary is to empower that relationship to happen more easily and more effectively without the wastage that’s sent the industry down the toilet in the last few years. Labels want to push their own brand, but the fans don’t care about that. Kids want to feel they’re being brought closer to the music and the musicians that they admire. All you, as intermediaries, should be doing is facilitating that relationship. You’ve got to put the fans and the musicians first.[…]

    My first album went gold, my second album didn’t. Nobody knew who the fans were — they were just units sold. Now, I can see reviews on blogs when I get back to the hotel after a show. I can blog. I can get comments immediately. There’s a closeness with the fans that never existed before, on radio playlists or royalty statements. I’m a tech guy as well as an artist, so I can do this all myself, but a lot of artists need help with that, and you need to help them.


    For the musician, a sense of personal connection to fans adds new emotional depth and reward to that relationship. For the fan, a sense of personal connection to musicians becomes almost an expectation. The labels and musicians who are able to provide that will be the ones that do best.

    If all that sounds like a utopian spin on the status of fans in the age of the internet, I suppose it is, at least from the fans’ perspective. The internet has made fandom more rewarding. We can connect with so many more fans, find so many more things to be fans of, find out so much more about the objects of our affection, and often we can make connections directly with those who make the music we love. We can gain status by staking our identities to the bands and scenes we love and developing expert credential s through online interaction. [And all this says nothing of the power we have to create and distribute our own materials, including those we make out of what others have already done.] The fearmongers may cry: but this is killing the local record store! This is taking us away from our local music scenes! The internet is killing the recording industry! Not true. The record stores are being killed by the labels and the big box stores with whom they make exclusive deals, not by the fans. And local music scenes continue to thrive. Local ties aren’t weakened on account of the internet. As for the recording industry, it seems to be pretty good at killing itself without fans pulling any triggers.

    As industry’s predominant reaction shows, whether change is good or not depends on whether you’ve gained or lost power. The newly empowered fans can be seen a tremendous threat to the people who’ve run the business for so long, what with all their desire for connection, attention, input and respect. The major record labels, with a few exceptions, have reacted with terror, casting fans as pirates and, at least in the United States, taking them to court. Indie labels are doing a lot better at recognizing that an empowered fan can be a magnificent ally. Musicians, with a few sad exceptions, seem to get it as well, though, like many enlightened labels, a lot of them have a long way to go in figuring out how to work it. Rule #1 for those feeling fear about navigating this new world: Trust the fans. We’re your allies, and if you’re good to us, we’ll give you love and do our best to keep you in business. Rules #1 for those without fear: Celebrate! It’s an exciting time in history to be building social lives around music.

    [First published on Online Fandom. Comments are welcome here or there]
  • New group: Last.fm Research

    15 jun 2007, 23:10 av josquin

    Out of intrigue with Stats, I decided to create a new group called Last.fm Research. The Stats group does a great job of putting together a list of applications and data sources for stats about Last.fm, but I think where it leaves off is what might be done with those stats.

    I'm sure I'm not the only one who cares about Last.fm from a research standpoint. There are many other librarians around here, not to mention various music information retrieval folks. Please, join my group and let's get something going. I'm interested in finding out what ideas folks have.

    Last.fm Research