here's an informative article comparing pandora to last.fm
I find both Pandora and Last.fm to be great for finding new music.
On the Mac, the Last.fm player is invasive. Any time it opens, it resets the Audio Midi Setup to 2ch-16bit and 44.1Khz. (I like to up-sample iTunes to 48Khz to 96Khz).
Last.fm also wants you to install a piece of software called Audioscrobbler that continually tells them what you are listening to on other players. I don't like the idea of that.
When I want to discover and listen to new music and meet others with similar tastes, I go to http://www.last.fm
Here is my setup. I love to listen to internet radio, and access the 60gigs of music files on my apple mac g4 computer with the Squeezebox 3 (SB3). I find this to be an unbeatable setup for work and play. I use the SB3 as my digital source for my stereo. I find it quite respectable sounding for my needs. I do my all my listening far away from the computer in another room. The SB3 is connected wirelessly.
Back to last.fm... It's a free download and simple install which consists of the last player and the audioscrobbler plugin. Once installed, I use the audioscrobbler plugin to relay my listening habits back to last.fm where a track list is created auto-magically on my free web page there. To check me out: http://www.last.fm/user/earthpulse
Wait, wait, that's not all... last.fm uses collaborative software, much like amazon does, i.e. readers who liked ... also liked .... The difference here is the intention to create connection and community, and the level of automation. By installing their audioscrobbler plugin, your preferences in music are uploaded to last.fm when you listen music with the plugin enabled. Then, this information is compared with over a million other last.fm listeners' individual musical tastes.
With this data sorted, Last.fm offers you an individualized feed consisting of music that other last.fm listeners with tastes similar to you have enjoyed. These listening suggestions are fed to you via a 128k streaming media file. Your personalized feed is then further refined when you respond to current selections being played: your choices are to "love," "skip," or "ban" the current track. These listening preferences are logged by last's vast servers.
Since last.fm is all about connection, this new social network also locates for you your musical "neighbors," people from around the world with similar musical tastes (my immediate neighbors, both male and female, range in age from 23 to 54; one lives in Japan and another in Thailand). And like other social networks, tagging is all the rage. Tag tracks and see how other listeners tag. Listen to tag radio. And since no social network would be complete without avatars, shoutboxes, friends, and groups, naturally these are also available.
Membership has its privilages: when you become a last subcriber (for $3 per month), you gain access to additional feeds made up entirely of your "loved tracks," You also gain access to other listeners' "loved tracks" feeds.
This process of listening to and rating your musical finds is fun and easy, and before I knew it I had created my own personal radio station, a station other subscribers can tune into also.
I prefer to listen away from my seat at the computer so I do not use the free last.fm software based player. Instead I enjoy the god-sent functionality of the Slimdevices SB3 and its remote for making my preferences known to last.fm.
Personally, I have not found any aspect of the service to be "invasive." I have no qualms about letting the world know what I am listening to, in fact, I enjoy it! And, with Last.fm there are no pop-ups, no special offers by email, and, thank God, no flashy suggestions for artists I have already heard far too much of. I find last.fm to be the very antithisis of Real networks and Microscoft player popup hell, in fact, I hesitate to mention them in the same sentence.
Last.fm is a revolutionary social network designed by geeky music lovers as a gift to (perhaps, not so geeky) music lovers. It's a new place for all of us who like to discover music new and old, and share our treasures with others.
Again, I invite you to have a look and give me a shout: