Leave it to the CBS-owned social music networking behemoth Last.fm to make a progressive move for the music industry. Besides famously providing hipsters and scenesters a music taste scoreboard to put on their MySpace profile, the U.K. company has achieved even more attention with a website that tracks your taste and provides recommendations based both on what you're listening to and what people around your taste area are listening to. It's a crazy good idea and has led me to discover new music. Okay, it's a tad bit creepy that Last.fm tracks my listening habits (and most likely my porn-watching habits), but since I'm not keeping track, somebody has to, like CBS. Perhaps CBS will get the hint that I'd rather watch King of Asses rather than King of Queens. Actually, I wish Last.fm recommended some new porn based on my porn-watching habits; that'd be sweet.
Alas, Last.fm isn't aggregating my porn habits and using the statistics to make my life sexier; instead, on January 23, the company posted an epic blog post about the future of Last.fm and possibly the music industry. In the post, Last.fm God Richard Jones bolded this sentence: "As of today, you can play full-length tracks and entire albums for free on the Last.fm website." Indeed, Last.fm has struck a deal with the four major music groups (EMI, Sony BMG, Universal, WEA) and tons of indie artists and labels for the new Last.fm business model. I was pretty stoked, until I found out that it'll be a subscription service. Call me cheap, but I hope the subscription service isn't too expensive (details are yet to emerge), and I certainly expect to be able to download the MP3s and put them on any MP3 player I want, which isn't yet clear.
Here's a snippet from the post:
During this initial public beta period, each track can be played up to 3 times for free before a notice appears telling you about our upcoming subscription service. The soon-to-be announced subscription service will give you unlimited plays and some other useful things. We’re also working on bringing full-length tracks to the desktop client and beyond.
Despite my bitching about the subscription idea, the coolest announcement would have to the implementation of the new artist-compensation feature. Essentially, every time someone plays a song, the artist will get paid from the generated ad revenue. Last.fm hasn't revealed how much, but those plays could certainly add up and eventually end up in the pockets of deserving indie musicians. How lucrative this venture can be for labels and artists is still up in the air, as well as whether or not a subscription service with ad revenue is the route to go, but it's definitely noteworthy for a heavy-hitter like Last.fm. Last.fm has neglected to state all the specifics in their blog post and instead opted to note it'll be answering these questions in the future, so I suppose we need to just wait and see. The current, albeit outdated model isn't going down without a fight (not that anyone's necessarily fighting for it), but I think Last.fm is definitely taking a step in the right direction.
The original Last.fm blog post can be found here.