My first millenium

Today is a significant day for my last.fm listening stats, as I have finally reached 1000 plays for one of the artists in my library.

Unsurprisingly the holder of this distinction is none other than Johann Sebastian “Mighty” Bach (to borrow the epithet bestowed on him by Organ Morgan in Under Milk Wood).  Although the last.fm stats don’t represent the entirety of my music listening history (I listened to plenty of music before last.fm came into existence and quite a lot of my listening is still offline and therefore unscrobbled), I think in this case it’s probably reasonably accurate since Bach is my favourite classical (or, if you want to be pedantic, baroque) composer and some of his music is my favourite music in any genre, therefore I do listen to a lot of Bach.

Bach has been in first place on my last.fm chart for quite a long time, and is likely to remain there for quite some time.  The number two spot, equally long-lasting in both directions, is held by Ludwig van Beethoven, my other favourite classical (or romantic, for the pedants) composer.  It probably won’t be very too long before he also reaches 1000 plays in my library.

The third place is perhaps slightly more surprising as it is held by Laïs, described on last.fm as a Flemish folk group although I wouldn’t describe their sound as particularly straight folk music.  I’m not sure exactly how I would describe it (folk-pop is a possibility, although I don’t think that does it justice) but it’s a sound I like very much, particularly in their earlier albums.  Laïs itself is an all-female a cappella trio, although they are accompanied by a band on most of their tracks.

Coming in fourth place is Jethro Tull, with Norwegian Hardanger fiddle player Annbjørg Lien in fifth place.  Perhaps it’s slightly surprising that the first jazz artist doesn’t appear until sixth place on my list, but less surprising that it’s Thelonious Monk who takes this place, as he’s definitely my favourite jazz cat and I have several of his albums (with plenty more available to listen to on Spotify).

The next appearance of a classical composer is Johannes Brahms, currently in 11th place.  Going by the thumbnail photo of him that is currently adorning the library icon (and has been for quite a while, although they do sometimes change), he would definitely head my chart of most impressive beards to be seen on last.fm

Of course, the last.fm library charts only indicate how many plays of tracks by a given artist have been scrobbled (i.e. recorded to the last.fm database) and not even how many times I’ve actually listened to each artist, let alone how highly I value their music.  Still, if I could pick one musician from all of history to have a jam with, I couldn’t think of any better choice than J. S. Bach.

Influential Scrobbling

I’ve been using last.fm for almost 4 years now as a way of keeping track of what I’m listening to and exploring new music.

Initially I was unconvinced of the benefits of the record-keeping side of things and only started using last.fm (about a  year after I first looked at it) so that I could listen to some of the vast collection of music that was freely available there (sadly it no longer seems to be possible to listen to very many complete tracks directly on last.fm).  However, I soon discovered that it is very interesting to be able to look back at what I’ve been listening to, and to be able to start exploring new artists and albums based on what I’ve heard and enjoyed before. In fact, it’s so good that I now do the vast majority of my listening at the computer so that I can scrobble (last.fm-speak for upload) the information to my account.

With access to all this information, perhaps it would be unreasonable to expect the statistics to just passively record what I would have been listening to anyway.  Since one of the benefits of scrobbling is the ability to revisit music I’ve enjoyed and explore similar stuff, it’s only natural to look through my library for inspiration when deciding what to listen to.  Artists I’ve listened to a lot (if I’m sorting the library by play count) or ones with eyecatching pictures or striking names (sorting alphabetically) are more likely to catch my notice and therefore to get played again (or to lead to similar artists getting played).

Sometimes I find myself going a stage further and deciding what to listen to (or even, sometimes, what to avoid listening to or to turn scrobbling off for) on the basis of how it will affect the song statistics.  For instance, I’ve been working on getting a few more of my favourite jazz artists on to my first library page (sorted by plays) – at the moment Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Humphrey Lyttelton are there and Louis Armstrong and Charles Mingus are close – so I sometimes  decide to listen to one of them rather than somebody else just so that I can boost them up in the ratings.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, since these are all artists I gain a lot of musical pleasure and enrichment from, but it is certainly the case that scrobbling my plays does have a big influence on what I choose to listen to.