I’ve been a last.fm user since 2006. I started because I was on a music forum and a member suggested we got last.fm accounts to share what we were listening to. Since then I’ve been using the service without interruption, making sure that almost each music player and device I was using would send my listening stats — so that they would be counted, summed up and displayed in nice lists and charts.

I stopped a few weeks ago. Removed last.fm scrobbling from all the music players I was using on my computers and on my phone. Closed my last.fm account, which now shows a “User not found” message along with a cute sad mixtape icon called Marvin.

Here’s why.

I had developed the same kind of fetishist relationship towards my last.fm profile that one may have towards the prominent bookcase in their living room, or any kind of LP/CD/DVD furniture that’s one third storage, one third displaying to yourself, one third showing off to your friends.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with showing off. I once wrote that our tastes are not fully our own until we realize that we’ve often acquired them in order to please, to fit in or to seduce. Not meaning that everything we like is influenced by how we expect others will react, but yeah it does play a role and that’s okay. So if you want to show off what you like to others and/or to yourself, go ahead.)

But in order to build this display of music preferences on last.fm, I had to alter my behavior, and after a while I realized that it had altered my relationship with music ever so slightly, and at times diminished my enjoyment of it.

My willingness to scrobble “my” music to last.fm (or to any similar service) had consequences, some rare, some more frequent and diffuse.

  • I would try to get stats for most of times I listened to music, and would choose devices and music software based on that requirement.

  • Listening to music on a non-scrobbling device (such as a traditional CD player) could diminish my enjoyment, if only for those few seconds where I’d be thinking “oh yeah, this won’t get counted”.

  • I could pick an album over something else because it was an artist I liked in theory — but who didn’t have enough “plays” on my profile. (This one is tricky to notice, and I’m not sure I ever picked something to listen primarily because of this. But it’s still an influence.)

  • When I wanted silence for any reason, I’d sometimes let the song or album play on so that it would be counted.

This might sound like I’m insane or mentally weak, but I believe it’s a normal trade-off of valuing that kind of data collection. The value you might get from those kinds of collections and stats is what creates the small frustrations and behavior changes. It might be worth it. You may even feel it’s alright with you, then change your opinion later on, and maybe change it again.

For me, it became a bit too much when I would consider doing this: leave the music playing while I couldn’t listen to it (taking a shower, going out for a little while…) so that it would “fix” some “holes” in the stats. I would, then, not scrobble the music that I listened to but listen to music in order to scrobble it. (And I must have done it only a handful of times, but I’ve thought about doing it bit more often, and having to tell myself “hey, that’s stupid!” didn’t feel right.)

So I thought about it: the psychological and social value I’m getting from keeping track of what I’m listening to, and the price of it all (i.e. some frustration and second-guessing).

I had no clear answer but I was curious to go back to stat-less music listening, and also I’m biased towards removing stuff anyway.

So there: I ditched last.fm.