Sunday, March 02, 2008

Last.FM, ball-pits and scrobbling I can believe in.

I should have taken my own photo, since I was sitting closer to Last.FM at the Glasshouse event Thursday, Feb 28th on 75 Murray street in Tribeca.

Instead I had to steal this one from from a flickr stream. A clearer shot would have shown the nice guys from Last.FM looked more like coldplay or radiohead than media-tech entrepreneurs, some may say they looked like nihilists from the Big Lebowski (that's a little harsh though).

I already had a account, but I became interested in firing it up again when I got home. I learned that Last.FM are going to use their scrobbling technology for local music collections soon, which means that you can track the songs you've played in systems like iTunes and access the 'global scrobbling database' outside of Last.FM as RJ explained to me after the talk. Last.FM said they were completely open to letting people move their social graph for music, which they create through scrobbling on Last.FM anywhere they want...basically scrobbling means letting Last.FM count the number of times they've played each track. This gives Last.FM a ginormous statistical database to do what Pandora, Finetune and others have tried to do in the field of collaborative filtering - which is to better recommend music to people such that it becomes effortless.

More important and immediate though, I learned that they, like xkcd have done something groundbreaking in terms of 2.0 office silliness, more worthy and symbolic of a 'bubble' than the foosball tables of web 1.0. They have in their office an adult sized ball pit, like the ones made famous by Seasame place back in the 80s. Felix Miller, in a rare digression from explaining the value of as a business model described the Last.FM ball pit as an adult-sized one, that was so deep 'kids would get lost in der, yah'. As you can see from the photo, RJ who is probably 6'2", is in such danger.

I actually had a serious question for Felix, RJ and Martin that I asked once they opened up the mic for Q&A - since you guys are part of CBS, and now that CBS is supporting a free WiFi spot in NYC (it would have been better for Last.FM to have that spot in Central Park, but midtown is at least a start) do you have plans for developing special iPhone or other wifi device capabilities, and will CBS and Last.FM start marketing events with scrobblers in mind?

Their response was collective, frustrated and honest: Felix said the iPhone is just like a walkman that takes away the need to have a rucksack full of tapes on your back, Martin said that the carriers are just not letting people do what they want to with music and RJ said, you know if you use your phone in the UK to stream a song you are paying for data per kilobyte so it doesn't work. However, they said, there are a lot of phones already capable of scrobbling. They left the discussion there and encouraged imagination.

Last.FM may have been talking about support on Nokia phones as well as what I've found on Last.FM, an iPhone user group that shared the link to a pre-SDK Last.FM iPhone application for mobile scrobblers.

Since the SDK for the iPhone is probably going to happen in 1.1.5, before the summer (1.1.4 was released this week) I think that we might see more marketers using the free WiFi in midtown to their advantage...or at least they should. Currently what we see are SMS and IVR calls to action. In fact last week's Columbus Shuffle had a few of these that I didn't highlight because I ran out of time to post them. Here's what a company called situation marketing did to promote one of the many broadway show outdoor campaigns it manages, Passing Strange:

If you look at the bottom there is a call to action - text STEW to 42903 to hear songs from the upcoming Passing Strange. Situation marketing then sends you a phone number to call (to access the IVR system) which lets you browse through clips of songs in the show. I think that Last.FM can do the same sorts of promotions and send an SMS with a link to a mobile site so people on WiFi can discover new songs by any artist and share them with friends, like how the Zune promised last year people would start to do through infrared or bluetooth (does anyone do this?). CBS can use Last.FM not just for music discovery but offer event promotions, especially because they can based on the SMS delivery target to events in your area.

Can't wait for summer!!!


Looks like Last.FM is already working on the outdoor strategy, anyone going to SXSW? Let me know how the Band Aid promotion goes!

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