Web 2.0 provides many interesting ways to study taste in music and patterns and habits of listening to music. Dividing music into genres is an activity that music makers, vendors and researchers are interested in doing, although their motivations might be very different. Early musicologists were obsessed about musical style and finding objective ways to categorise works and composers. The activity goes on, and now we do that socially. Most online music shops use metadata, or names of artists, songs, years of release, and genres so that customers can search for music they might like to buy. The genre allocations in iTunes for instance are sometimes quite ridiculous. Rufus Wainwright is rock while Maija Vilkkumaa is pop. A genre of a song turns into soundtrack once it has been released on one. Of course you could assign your own labels for the genres, which is where things get interesting.
But for your own purposes you don’t necessarily want to do that, but as soon as there is a social purpose for it, our motivation to spend time doing tedious categorisation increases. And therefore, in last.fm, people are using tags to categorise their music, and these tags are now being researched. See last.fm blog entry on the topic.
I’m now getting interested in the various ways in which we could obtain, process and analyse the eams of data people leave behind in last.fm when they use it. Just looking at my own iTunes listening behaviour (more than 11 000 songs played) after I had my iTunes play history scrobbled to last.fm was interesting. And perhaps mostly so because I think it is different from how I would reply to a questionnaire about my music listening. From methodological point of view, this is important. And from social psychological point of view, the opportunities that a community based on what music people listen to gives, are immense. People are being linked based on their musical tastes. In the “real world”, the causation often goes to the other direction. How does it influence your music listening that you know your choices are being scrobbled and made available to the world? That when you look at anyone else’s profile you see you “musical fit” with that person? That your friends and “neighbours” are being constantly ranked based on how much music you share during a given week?
A lot to do there, I’d say. I’ll test some of the widgets that last.fm provides here. If you are not satisfied with the audience last.fm gives your musical identity, you can broadcast your habits ever wider, by adding these widgets to your Facebook or MySpace profiles or your blogs.
OK, so after about an hour of trying, it turns out that last.fm widgets are not supported in wordpress.com. I’ve tested them now on my Blogger blog, and they seem to work. It is not as pretty but there’s an RSS feed of my recently played tracks at the bottom of the sidebar. The data about what and when we have played can thus be exported in a number of formats, in RSS, XML, txt etc.