You might not care who’s top of the pops, but even in this digital age, a lot of people still do. It’s especially important to European music industry publication Music Week. That’s why they’ve begun publishing the chart from Last.fm, based on the listening habits of its users.It’s the first time a chart from an online supplier has been used by the magazine. Last.fm users download a program that keeps track of every song played through the user’scomputer’s music player. That allows users to build their own customized “radio stations” based on tracks they like, and link to similar artists recommended by others. So what makes that so special to the music industry? In part it’s because it shows how often tracks are listened to after being bought, and that the listening habits are “purer,” not the victimsof marketing and targeted buying that can skew the traditional charts. And the fact that Last.fm has 20 million users could also have something to do with it.
“Our users are on street level and they pick up music as it happens,” said Last.fm spokesman Christian Ward. One artist popular on the site long before his chart success was Gnarls Barkley. “That’s the kind of thing these charts reflect and that’s priceless to the industry. It’s beyond our control what happens in these charts, and artists can’t be artificially ‘bumped up’ the chart.”
Last.fm has become very popular lately. In May, it was announced that Channel 4 radio is to broadcast a weekly show based on the listening habits of Last.fm users, based on the site’s international charts. In addition, the site wants to explore possible US partners for its chart data. Also in May, Last.fm was bought by CBS Interactive for around $280 million.
Last.fm will supply three different charts to Music Week – the overall most listened-to artist, the most listened-to artist in Britain compared to elsewhere, and the “hype list”of artists whose popularity has risen most in the past month. However, the move does have critics. Examine the Last.fm charts and you’ll regularly find the Beatles – hardly cutting-edgematerial. But the popularity of some artists goes on and on…