CBS' $280 million darling Last.fm has unveiled a small, somewhat unexciting portion of its services this morning called "Playground." The space will be a new test bed for works-in-progress features that aren't quite ready for prime time and need a little user testing to work out the kinks. While lacking in eye candy, some of the tools are actually quite useful for music discovery.
Starting today there are three to play with: multi-tag search, artist name variations, and a listing of the tracks that make it the most to the weekly top 10. Of the bunch, my favorite is the multi-tag search, which lets you combine several tags together to build and execute highly customized searches either with tags you type in, or those selected from a large cloud. In comparison, the site's current utilities only let you browse by single tag or search by band name.
Speaking of band names, the new search tool that splits up the results by band name spelling is really neat. Band names are one of the key reasons for disambiguation in people's digital music collections, and the artist name variation tool lists some of the alternate names that make their way onto the service via ID3 tags. Anyone with a large music library with content from multiple sources will run into this unless they've used some sort of ID3 tag clean-up utility. (Here's a good one.) A fun one to try is guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. I've purchased a ton of his albums over the years, and when ripping them to my library I've managed to get several spellings of his name. A simple search in the band name tool pulls up 20 different spellings and variations of tracks he's on, including percentages of how much that particular name appears in his online music presence. Neat.