The question of how to adapt to new times and technology has always been a troublesome one. Some want to abandon the past, others cling to it with heels-in-the-ground determination. Finding a middle ground is, of course, not only the goal, but very difficult as well.
The music business is no different. 50 years ago, you couldn't even really take music with you, outside of your car. You had your radio, and that's it.
Now mp3 players are available that will easily fit in the palm of your hand. Players that boast about being able to hold over six albums of data. This isn't even the largest or most drastic paradigm shift. It's now very easy to copy and re-produce music, legally or otherwise.
What to do? How can we adapt to the new technologies and abilities that are available without compromising our integrity?
Last.fm is one take on this problem. It's an innovative hybrid of the old and the new - music sharing and, as the name would imply, FM radio. You select the bands you like and adore, and the service plays selections based on that. They mix your old favorites with other artists in the same musical vein, giving you the best of all worlds. Best of all, it's free, legal, and growing fast.
Last.fm is a service I've had my eye on for quite some time now. Unfortunately, I couldn't use their service because I couldn't install the client - I lacked admin privileges on my computer, which both the install and authentication needed. So all I really had for internet radio was Yahoo LAUNCHCast. Sadly, I quickly grew annoyed with that style of doing things, and I wasn't about to shell out $5/month or $30/year for 192 kbps WMAs. I had grown quite sick and tired of lossy encoding and wanted a much fuller sound. I don’t think 320 kbps MP3s are too much to ask for, if not outright lossless sound.
So naturally I greeted the news about Last.fm's update - in particular the introduction of the flash client - with excitement. FINALLY! Something that just needs a browser and flash, that will work anywhere! Sounds like a dream come true, yes?
Well, mostly. You see, it's brand-new code - it doesn't have the stability the installed clients boast. Often times (for me, at least) connection errors stopped the music cold. Granted, most times you can just press "Play" and it'll start right up again, but it does get mildly annoying. If it's determined not to play, it will give a "Not enough content to play station" error message. That's because I didn't put enough bands in the list. Last.fm is licensed as a radio station, and as such, they cannot play more than one song from any artist within a certain timeframe.