The social music website, Last.fm has become a firm favourite with music fans the world over because of the way it lets users discover music which the site deems likely to interest them. Because of this popularity, software developers have been quick to try to produce applications which make use of the website's open database - making for an interesting mixture of traditional offline and web-based software.
Local.fm is one of the more popular 3rd party applications developed to get some Last.fm style functionality on your PC. It works by scanning your music library and using the Last.fm database to create playlists of songs stored on your computer, using the 'Similar Tracks', 'Most Tagged Tracks' and 'User Tagged Tracks' queries. Enter your chosen track's details, or a Last.fm username and tag and Local.fm scans your music library to see which songs are available locally to create a playlist.
Unfortunately, while Local.fm is a novel and interesting idea, it has several downsides which limit its usefulness. Firstly, the playlist function is only compatible with Winamp or Windows Media Player, which is a great shame for iTunes users. The user interface, though not particularly complex, wasn't always completely clear and could definitely be improved by features like autofill.
The aspect of the program which needs to be changed most is its dependence on artist and track information being tagged in a way which exactly matches the Last.fm library. Even though I'd just spent a lot of time fixing the tags on my music library, I returned plenty of 'song not found' errors for tracks which are certainly present in the folders I've determined. A more fuzzy approach to song matching would probably fix this problem.
Local.fm is an interesting idea which is let down by several technical issues. While it's not perfect yet, it's definitely one to watch.