This is Hot Pod, The Verge’s podcasting and audio industry magazine. Register here for additional.
Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and I’ve already eaten half of a Hawaiian’s King roll. I can’t wait to check in, meet the family, and eat more bread later this week. But for now: podcasts. Or music, actually — most of the news this week is about music streaming and what we hear. And mostly, this week’s newsletter is about a service that I really remember, even though I haven’t used it in years.
Today, we got a check on Last.fm and its growing presence on Discord, an update on Neil Young on Spotify, a new audio editing tool from Anchor, and an expansion of its audiobook efforts. Spotify.
Quick tip for Insiders: we’re taking Thursday and Friday off this week for the holidays. Ariel will get back to you on Tuesday. Congratulations, and happy holidays!
Last.fm is 20 years old — and people are still freaking out
Over the weekend, the service that popularized the practice of monitoring your digital listening habits turned 20 years old. Last.fm users still stream — that is, monitor their music playback — hundreds of times a day, according to a running counter on the service’s website.
Last.fm felt a little revolutionary when it was first introduced in the early 2000s. ‘your music player, recorded everything you listened to, and then showed you some statistics about your listening habits. Plus, it can recommend songs and artists to you based on what other people with similar listening habits have been interested in. ” wrote blogger Andy Baio in February 2003 after trying it for the first time.
This was actually a precursor to the algorithmic recommendation system that is built into all music streaming services today. Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal – whatever you’re listening to, they’re all tracking your habits and using it to suggest new routes for you. But with these services, your data is hidden behind the scenes. Using Last.fm is like having access to Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year but you can do it every day and always update.
“People like to talk about music.”
(In case you’re wondering: yes, people mess up You are wrong, Pod Save Americaand Joe Rogan, as well as Last.fm offers personalized recommendations. (Podcasts are less popular than music.)
Automatic recommendations from streaming services have eliminated the need for platforms like Last.fm (sure, I haven’t written anything in over a decade). But I took the plunge, and it turns out there are still corners of the internet building active communities around their features. One of the main uses is in Discord, where third-party developers have built a service called .fmbot that integrates scrobbling data into the popular chat room app.
“People love to talk about music,” said Thom, owner of .fmbot, who only gave his name in an interview. Hot Pod. “This is a tool that makes it easy to find out what other people’s music tastes like.”
Thom, a backend developer based in the Netherlands, says the bot has more than 400,000 users, with 40,000 people engaging with the service every day. It is especially popular on Discords based on artists or specific genres of music – where people “want to compare their stats” – and on servers for small groups of friends, so they can “getting deeper into what everyone is listening to,” he said. .
The bot pulls cool statistics that people can be proud of: the date a song was first listened to, how many days worth of music they consume each year, or a list of their top albums. Thom said he joined Last.fm “after it was, I guess you could say, dying.” But he likes the data it offers and sees a future for Discord as long as the service exists. “Discord is betting more on bots … so I think it might help bots grow more,” he said.
I was a little surprised to find that Last.fm still existed when I started writing this story, let alone that a new community had flourished around its data. (The company did not respond to requests for comment.) But I think in a world where most services shut down and hide your data, there will always be people looking for ways to track it and analyze it. And in exchange, they get to enjoy arguing about music statistics every day – not just once a year when Wrapped comes out.
Neil Young is “not coming back” to Spotify
Neil Young sat down with Howard Stern last week to talk about climate change, Woodstock, and of course, removing his music from Spotify in protest of the company’s support of Joe Rogan and the spread of covid misinformation.
Stern tries to get juicy details out of Young about the implications of pulling his catalog (“What’s the math? How much money did you turn down? How many million dollars?”), which Young quickly dismisses (“I don’t know but I’ll do well.”) But he did have one big revelation about Young’s future as it relates to Spotify: don’t expect to see him back there anytime soon — or ever.
“I would never go back there — or anywhere else like that,” Young said. “I don’t need it, I don’t want it.”
“Why would I want to keep it on Spotify if it looks like a pixelated movie?”
Losing Young is obviously not a game changer for Spotify, but it shows the power of great artists. Young people and other top musicians have the ability to pick and choose platforms, and in a world where big names can choose one service over another, they can begin to dictate the winners and losers. Today, however, we are far from that reality. And the decline of streaming exclusives shows that most parties prefer to have free access to a preferred platform.
During the interview, Young also made sure to get his favorite shots on Spotify – and, really, most of the digital music: but it seems like a waste because of the pressure. “We don’t need that. I have all these other places. And it’s better elsewhere,” Young said. “Why do I want to keep it on Spotify when it looks like a pixelated movie?”
This is a good rule of thumb. I don’t share specifics about Young’s audio quality, but I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to know more about when that HiFi level appears.
The anchor helps reduce the noise at once
There’s a smart new addition to Anchor this week that’s designed to help clean up audio by reducing noise and noise. When you’re done recording, there’s an “Enhance” button in the lower right corner of the screen that instantly adjusts the volume with just a tap.
I tried the feature, and I didn’t find it very impressive. It makes your voice louder (and more robotic) and can remove slow noise. But mostly… I was immediately amazed at how well my phone’s microphone alone could pick up my voice, even when I blasted a couple of YouTube videos at street noise. in New York and channel lo-fi music less than a foot from the mic.
However, I think what Anchor is doing here is important. If Spotify really sees a future in homegrown and curated podcasts, it needs to do everything it can to make sure they’re worth listening to. Anchor’s Enhance button could use some work, but it’s a smart step toward that goal.
Spotify is expanding its audiobook store
Audiobooks are there is now on Spotify in the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, after first launching in the US in September. Continued global expansion will be key to making audio the third pillar of Spotify’s business as it expands beyond music and podcasts. Obviously, this would improve the user experience so that people can buy books within the app – but it’s not clear that Spotify will get the chance.
That’s all for today. Next week.