Way back in 2001 my buddy Jeff Goke recommended a site called launch.com for streaming audio. It had the awesome features of letting you skip songs, letting you rate songs, and trying to play new songs that it thought you would like. It was free with commercials. After using it for several months, I went ahead and ponied up for the paid version, It was a modest $3 or $4 a month, and I was listening to it essentially 40 hours a week.
8 years later, I have still been listening to launch. I have loved not buying CDs. I have loved going from job to job and still having "my" music. I love being able to listen to it at work or at home. Even after they got bought by yahoo, things were pretty much the same as they ever were.
I had minor quibbles, essentially being that I couldn't listen to it via Firefox or on a mobile device. I would have dearly loved to be able to listen to my station as I tooled around town lake or driven around town.
About a month ago, I got a note in my email. Launch had been sold to CBS, and CBS is discontinuing the paid version of the stream. This means that "my station" will no longer be there. I can tune into many different channels, but none of them will be tailored to my unique test, and I assume they will have commercials.
I have tried a few other channel based streams. I love to work to dance music, so I tried both soma.fm (http://somafm.com/) and digitally imported (http://www.di.fm). Waaaay back before launch I listened to spinner. It looks like it is still around, but maybe not in the same line of business.
There are other sites that will learn what you like. I have heard that both pandora and last.fm are good. The launch guys suggest going to rhapsody. I may have to switch.
Once I found out they were going under, I thought about all the songs I had rated. You can use a 0 - 100 scale; 100 means "love it", zero means "never play again". You can rate bands, albums, or songs. I did a quick look at "my station" and found that I had rated just over 7,700 songs. Goodness!
Luckily, you can view all of your song ratings. Unluckily, you can only view 99 at a time and then hit "next". Egad. With a little perl hacking, I wrote a script that would generates URLs as if I had hit the next button 77 times and downloaded all the pages. Then I wrote another perl script to coalesce the data into a tab delimited format, and finally I pulled it up in Excel to crunch some numbers.
The numbers weren't that interesting. The most interesting, perhaps, is that of those 7,700 ratings, approximately 3,5000 were "never play again". Ha!
But most important, I hope, will be a list of songs that I really liked at some point (you can change the ratings over time, so the current list of favorites has changed over the past eight years). Because one of the best things about launch was finding out new music that I had never heard before but ended up really liking.
Today (Feb 12th) is the last day "my station" will be available, so I thought I would share just 15 of the songs that launch introduced me to that I have enjoyed. Tricky's "Hell's Around The Corner" is one of those, but since I made a whole post about it, I guess I won't include it. In no particular order...
The Mars Volta - Goliath/Rapid Fire Tollbooth (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPvCz2xuVJo)
De La Sol - Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa (only the instrumental version on YouTube, sadly http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPvCz2xuVJo)
Jesus and Mary Chain - Birthday/Happy when it rains/Sidewalking (only crappy live versions on YouTube)
Emmylou Harris - Where Will I Be - (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YpE47V1AHE)
Timbaland - Lobster & Scrimp, et al - (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1niTSAD8tXI)
Fu Manchu - Squash that Fly (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7DKurc35qI)
Go Betty Go - Son Mis Locuras (embarrassing machinma http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUnS_pFsksc)
Peter Bjorn And John - Young Folks (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51V1VMkuyx0)
Flogging Molly - Cruel Mistress/Float/et al (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcEEAjGtAkY)
Tiesto - Adagio for Strings (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O666kGBEvF0)
Mya - Lock You Down (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpy4hWncDqY)
James McMurty - Rachel's Song (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4x1UY4DdyFc)
Ugly Duckling - Visions of Grandeur (http://www.myspace.com/uglyduckling)
Inspiral Carpets - Weakness (crappy live version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PBKJ_1o1fFw)
Tarbox Ramblers - Ashes to Ashes (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcBwOelBeL4)
TV On The Radio - Wolf Like Me (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUB1xSAAADk)
Okay, that last one I heard in a coffee shop last year, but I loved it too much to not include it. I spent a whole week just listening to it obsessively.
So long launch. It's been a great 8 years.