Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anyone up for a game of Scrobble?

Unable to sleep tonight (what else is new), I started listening to some of my favorite tunes - and fiddling with Last.FM. I quickly hit the annoyance I always had - it's easy to scrobble from iTunes and the iPod, but those aren't my only music players. In fact, they aren't even my primary music players (the iPod relegated to my car only, and iTunes...well, I never listen to anything in iTunes)... so, how do I get music playing anywhere in my little world up and into Last.FM?

Note: for the purpose of this posting, I am leaving out all Last.FM specific applications which just stream Last.FM stations and reside on devices like the Nokia, the iPhone and laptops - and instead I am focusing just on plugins to existing native media playback applications. 'Cuz, I mean, who the hell actually listens through those little Last.FM streamers?

First, what's my music ecosystem these days? Well, as it should be, its a variety of devices and internet services:

That's quite a collection, but they all have different purposes in my life - the Zune for traveling and listening to my music collection, the Android for internet streaming, WMP and Banshee for when I am on my laptops, etc. Until recently, it was difficult to find applications to allow scrobbling on these devices.

In the last few months, however, a boatload of scrobblers has shown up out of nowhere. It's either a full moon, or I'm not the only one who was having these issues.

So, after a few hours tonight, I was able to pull together enough of these scrobblers to cover each and every media player in my ecosystem. (Again: skipping the iTunes/iPod and Windows Media player solutions, since these are easily provided via Last.FM itself.)

Zune / Zune Marketplace = Zenses
(Last.Fm Group:

This one was the trickiest to find, actually. The Zune and Zune Marketplace don't have a published API for plugins (jeez, of COURSE they don't), so Zune owners have been frustrated for years. Then along came Zenses, the open source brainchild of Last.FM junky Adam Livesley. Not a conventional scrobbling tool - in that it isn't a plugin - Zenses was originally written for the Creative Zen, which has the same issue as the Zune. As it turns out, the same trick it Zenses uses to work with the Creative Zen works with Zune Marketplace.

Zenses runs in the background of your Vista machine. When Zune Marketplace fires up and the Zune syncs its information with Marketplace, it changes the "last access" date field in the media files that were played - this change in state is detected by Zenses and registered as a hit suitable for scobbling, and reports it to Last.FM.

If you think about if for a minute, its the same trick that backup utilities use for determining that a file has changed and is ready for backup. If you think about it for 2 minutes, you also realize that in order for Zenses to work, it needs a "baseline" of file states to compare against. So the very first time you install and run Zenses, go and get lunch as it creates that baseline for your all your files. The good news is that it only needs to do this once, then it's scobble-as-usual from then on.

Sonos Music System - Sonos Upgrade 2.7
(Last.FM Group:

If you have a house, or even a multiroom condo or apartment, and you don't want to spend $100K on a whole house audio system that will be obsolete in a year, then you want a Sonos system. For about $500/room, Sonos will shuttle all of your digital music around (regardless of whether or not its on a hard drive, your Rhapsody account, Sirius satellite, local radio stations, Pandora, Napster, etc) , and even sync the room playbacks together.

This is how I listen to all of my music at home - so the fact that there was never a scrobbler for Sonos was incredibly frustrating to me. That changed with the release of Sonos 2.7 software late last month. Sonos 2.7 includes a Last.FM integration that is seamless: it not only scrobbles all your playbacks, but allows you access to your Last.FM account from the Sonos Controllers. Problem solved. - The Radio Paradise Scrobbler
(Last.FM Group: none)

Based off of Markus Palme's scrobbler for a local radio station, Last.FMer RichPr built the Radio Paradise Scrobbler.

The use of the application is fairly simple: after installing it, you access radio paradise through the RP Scrobbler - which does the task of passing the stream off to Windows Media Player for playback of the stream, and recording the RP track changes and passing the information off to Last.FM as you go.


Banshee Media Player - Banshee Media Player
(Last.FM Group:

The Banshee Media Player is an all-inclusive media player for several flavors of Linux, including Ubuntu. Banshee takes the place of RhythmBox on Ubuntu, and indeed replaces all of that players features - and adds a few such as podcast catching and, of course, scrobbling. It's clean, easy and works like a champ.

Android G1 - ScrobbleDroid
(Last.FM Group:

Lightweight and sporting a cutsey icon, ScrobbleDroid is available from the Android Market. It operates silently in the background listening to anything being played through the Android's default "Music" application and scrobbles it out to Last.FM. It works pretty flawlessly - to the point that you forget it is there at all.

The only complaint I have about it so far is that it does stick to parasiting itself on the Android music app... so, when I listen to RadioParadise through "AntPlayer" on the Android, nothing gets scrobbled. Well, the damn phone has only been out for a month and a half, I can cut it some slack, right?

Update: January 26th: At the end of last week, Last.FM released it's Android Last.FM application to the Android Market. It's a full-featured Last.FM client, complete with your profile information, stations, friends, neighbors and other Last.FM goodies. (The only thing missing, I think, is editing your profile.) Playing off of the Android Last.FM app automatically scrobbles your plays. A very sweet application. Nicely done.

Vista Media Center - MceFM (Last.FM Group:

The MceFM plugin for Vista Media Center is both a Last.FM client streamer, and a scrobbler for the Vista Music Playback center. Providing an additional interface to the Music playback that allows for the Last.FM streaming, and if you just listen to your music normally, it scrobbles what you are listening to up to the mother ship.

Bonus extra-credit points: the freakin' thing works with the XBox360 in Media Extender Mode.

OK - that's not an exhaustive list, by any means, but it covers a lot of my personal ground...and, well, it's all about me, isn't it?

BTW, if you'd like, feel free to follow my listening exploits on Last.FM, since I scrobble now:


shplink said...

Not meaning to complicate your life, but have you looked into Mozilla's Songbird? I've been using it in both my OS X and Ubuntu boxes the last week, and I think I really, really like it.
Metadata editing is my main focus these days, and Songbird does it well. It also has a nice interface, including the artists' bios while playing...
Banshee crashes like crazy on my mac, btw -but it's only Beta for OSX right now....
Anyway, happy harmonica!

RocketMan said...

Hi -

Thanks - yes, I have been poking around with Songbird quite a bit -- been in contact with the developers since version 0.5 or so, actually. The final 1.0 release works extremely well, and - of course - it scrobbles.

I would switch to it except for the lack of proper video support, which I use a lot both on my Zune and my iPod version5.

Sorry to hear about Banshee on the Mac - I don't use it there, just on Ubuntu, where it works pretty solidly.