Image via WikipediaI used to joke that the way to be successful in the music industry was to look at whatever the major labels were up to, and simply do the opposite. It’s getting to the point where that’s not really a joke anymore. I learned yesterday that Warner Music have pulled their catalogue from Last.fm. This, if nothing else, is confirmation of the wisdom that this is exactly where your music should be.
Now, it’s possible that Warner’s catalogue isn’t benefiting as greatly from Last.fm as an independent might. Last.fm users tend to be quite active music hobbyists – not in the majority, but certainly in greater proportion to most sites. And independent music enthusiasts tend to be disproportionately represented amongst active music consumers.
Put simply, people who are more discerning about their music tend to look outside the mainstream hits. People who are more discerning about their music tend to be more active about discovering new music. Last.fm encourages an active engagement with the process of music consumption.
In fact, I’d argue that more than almost any other music site out there, Last.fm understands how people consume music.
Understanding music consumption
Remember that consumption of music is not simply about the acts of discovery, purchasing and listening to music.
Music consumers do far more with their music. They collect, they organise, they make sense of it and connect different parts of their music to others, they talk about it and recommend it to their friends – and they even build hierarchies of status and esteem based on musical knowledge and taste-making.
Whether by accident or design, Last.fm seems to understand and take advantage of this fact, and the fact that people’s music tastes are, more often than not, fairly eclectic.
They give the users tools with which to talk about music they love, connect with other people who also love the music that they love, engage through that music consumption – and even build communities based around shared interests and expertise. All within what some (I would argue mistakenly) consider to be simply an internet radio portal.
Hear, Like, Buy
There are a number of reasons that I recommend to the labels I consult that they upload their catalogues to Last.fm. The most obvious one is the fact that it allows people to hear their music, and then gives them an obvious and direct link to buy it.
Last.fm will not only play your music to people as part of their listening streams, but it will also recommend it to people who are already predisposed to liking it, based on what else they already listen to – both on Last.fm and from their own mp3 collection.
You can even pay a bit of extra money to get your music heard by people who like other music that you identify with. Kind of like payola, but legal, much more ethical and far more affordable.
Stream whole tracks
Last.fm will, at your discretion (and I’d advise taking them up on it), allow users to stream whole tracks of your music on demand. They have proof that it leads to more sales.
I mean, you and I knew intuitively that it was true – but they have the numbers.
Another wiki opportunity
But there’s more to Last.fm than a streaming player. The artist pages are, like all such things should probably be by now, wikis. That means that just like Wikipedia, anyone can update, amend and correct an artist’s information page.
The importance of this should not be overlooked. Your bio and discography can be just as accurate, comprehensive and up to date as anyone’s. And the fact that you can throw your YouTube videos in there as well is a bonus. Some people like colour and movement.
Last.fm wins on points
It may not be – as some have pointed out – the most popular online destination for music. But it’s disproportionately more effective. I
n fact, I’d put it in my top 10 sites that all serious musicians should engage with. It’s targeted, audience-friendly, social, lends itself to both viral activity within the site, and search engine optimisation (ie: it’s a good place to be ‘found’).
If your music is not already on Last.fm – go make sure it is.