Last.fm launches ‘free music’ business model


24 Jan 2008

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Online music channel Last.fm has announced a new business model that will make millions of full-length songs and entire albums available for free on its website.

The company has amassed the biggest legal collection of free music available online in collaboration with the four major record labels, EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner.

The model will allow visitors to the site play the songs for free up to three times before a notice appears informing them of Last.fm’s upcoming subscription service. This service will provide unlimited plays of the tracks.

The project is in public beta phase at the moment, with details of the subscription service to be announced soon. At present, it is only available to users in the US, UK and Germany, but according to Richard Jones of Last.fm, the company is “hard at work broadening our coverage into other countries.”

Jones stated in his blog: “Free full-length tracks are obviously great news for listeners but also great for artists and labels who get paid every time someone streams a song. Music on Last.fm is perpetually monetised. This is good because artists get paid based on how popular a song is with their fans, instead of a fixed amount.

“We’re not printing money to pay for this but the business model is simple enough: we are paying artists and labels a share of advertising revenue from the website.”

Unsigned artists can also collect royalty fees directly from Last.fm for music they make available on the site.

Jones concluded: “Today we’re re-designing the music economy. There are already millions of tracks available, and we’re adding more every day. We will continue to work hard to bring this to everyone in the world.”

CBS acquired Last.fm last year for US$280m.

By Niall Byrne

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