What iTunes Could Have Been
When someone directed me to a site promising to be the "social music revolution," I was pretty skeptical. I wasn't sure if I could use it, or if I would even have any inclination to. Anytime someone offers something they claim is "revolutionary," chances are it will be hard to use. What's more, I was worried that those who saw the value in the social aspect of the site would be inclined to ask for way more information that they needed.
To my delight and surprise, Last.fm is turning out to be a useful and simple to use music discovery tool. The sign-up process is one of the best I've seen, and the design is very attractive and mostly intuitive.
I downloaded the software and put it in my keyword search ("Christmas"), and now I'm listening to random Christmas music, commercial-free.
And it isn't just the scrub songs, either. Right now Luther Vandross is bellowing the lyrics to "O Come All Ye Faithful," and I'm loving it.
Supposedly the system will take inventory of my listening behavior and offer recommendations for music I might also like (and even uses this data to help populate my playlist). As someone who has difficulty remembering the names of artists and finding songs that meet my eclectic tastes, this is a feature I really appreciate.
I cannot listen to every song, on-demand, and I shouldn't be able to without having to buy them... But I can listen to 30-second previews of many songs that are in inventory. That way I can confidently ascertain if the album is suitable for me.
The biggest problem I see is that there appears to be no option to use the interface to buy directly from iTunes, since that happens to be my favorite interface for buying music on-demand. Some songs are available for download from Amazon, but so far most of the "Buy" links take me to the page where I can buy the CD from Amazon - to have shipped to me.
If I want it immediately (which I would, since I'd already be in listening mode), I'm out of luck, or else I have to use a different interface (such as iTunes).
If the software allowed me to download the music directly and load it onto my iPod, this would truly revolutionize the way I buy music - and I'd probably buy a lot more of it than I do now.
Perhaps that's something still on the horizon. I sure hope so. - Cam Beck