Last.fm to start charging for their radio streaming service

Posted by berto on March 25, 2009

Yesterday Last.fm announced important changes in their radio streaming service.

The most obvious one is that from now on users will have to pay a monthly fee of €3.00 to continue using their radio stations (except in Germany, the USA and the UK, where the service will remain free).

This is sad news for all Last.fm users (and music lovers in general) as it appears to be a consequence of the licensing agreements that Last.fm has with labels and the royalties they have to pay on streaming music (this article from last month gives some details on this).

Besides this, a post in one of the Last.fm forums adds a couple of things:

  1. The old API to stream music will disappear in a few weeks. Unless I’m missing something, that implies that all clients (official and third party) will stop working, and upgrading them is required to continue using the service.
  2. Streaming music to mobile phones will not be permitted (a comment in the same thread explains that this restriction applies only to phones, so Nokia tablets are not affected).

The new API and its details haven’t been published yet, and I don’t know how this could affect open source clients.

My plans are to continue using Last.fm (since I still think it’s a great service) and to keep working on Vagalume, but right now the future is uncertain so we’ll have to wait for a few weeks to see how all this ends up.

Update 25 Mar 2009 18:16:03 +0100: Rob Taylor asked about open source clients and the answer is that Open source apps can apply for an API key at the moment, and that won’t change.

Update 28 Mar 2009 16:57:16 +0100: It had already been said in the initial post, but another comment in the same thread confirms that you need a subscriber account to be able to use third-party clients, even if you’re in the UK, US or Germany.

Trackbacks

Trackbacks are closed.

Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Andrés G. Aragoneses Wed, 25 Mar 2009 19:12:01 CEST

    This is the reason of why open source shouldn’t rely on closed-services. AGPL to the rescue.

  2. berto Wed, 25 Mar 2009 19:53:46 CEST

    True. But for pop music the problem is difficult. We’d have to convince artists to switch to Creative Commons or similar licenses to be able to create completely open music services.

  3. Hans Wed, 25 Mar 2009 19:58:49 CEST

    If we need to pay, we should be able to choose what songs we want to listen to manually, like Spotify.

  4. berto Wed, 25 Mar 2009 20:05:20 CEST

    That would be great, and that’s what they promised last year, but only for some countries (and I don’t know if they ever did it anyway).

    The problem is that the free version of Spotify includes ads in their streams, but as the Last.fm API is open it would be easy to skip them if they had them too.

    And the premium version of Spotify costs three times as much.

  5. Andrés G. Aragoneses Wed, 25 Mar 2009 21:46:42 CEST

    But why do we need to convince the artists? The technology is there and it’s legal (although some want to criminalize it): P2P. I bet that with a very high-speed connection and some server to determine the “similarities” between artists/songs (which is what LastFM server basically does, except the streaming part), you could build a similar service like LastFM but using bittorrent. Don’t you think?

  6. Simon Wed, 25 Mar 2009 22:44:30 CEST

    Well, it’s hardly surprising. For all that there are people happy to work for free, things still cost money. Sometimes that money can come from advertising revenue, but nobody wants ads in the middle of their music. That leaves a subscription model, and well, here we are.

  7. Faz Thu, 26 Mar 2009 00:15:22 CEST

    I’m a Last.fm subscriber in the UK, so as long as Vagalume continues to work, I guess I’m not affected. Still, this looks like a bad sign….

    Might be a good time for Last.fm users to register with freshspotify.com to receive email alerts when new material is added to Spotify from your favourite artists. Or just check their website, it’s way easier to navigate than the Google doc Spotify publish.

    Long live Valalume! :)

  8. krisse Thu, 26 Mar 2009 00:45:59 CEST

    “But why do we need to convince the artists? The technology is there and it’s legal (although some want to criminalize it)”

    You don’t need to convince the artists in order to set up a P2P network.

    You DO need to convince the artists if you want to put their copyright material on a P2P network.

    Yes you could probably make an app that links to pirated music on bittorrent, but that relies entirely on someone somewhere breaking the law by putting music on the torrent in the first place. The app might not be illegal, but the content it linked to probably would be.

    The beauty of last.fm was that it didn’t require anyone to break the law, it all operated within existing licence frameworks.

  9. Andrés G. Aragoneses Thu, 26 Mar 2009 02:06:51 CEST

    “Yes you could probably make an app that links to pirated music on bittorrent, but that relies entirely on someone somewhere breaking the law by putting music on the torrent in the first place. The app might not be illegal, but the content it linked to probably would be,”

    Just like when using P2P to download any copyrighted material, but is this stopping people to use P2P for this matter? No. Then let’s develop a Last.FM alike app with P2P technology (and let’s choose an anonymous protocol like OneSwarm so we’re all covered).

  10. krisse Fri, 27 Mar 2009 00:56:27 CEST

    “Then let’s develop a Last.FM alike app with P2P technology (and let’s choose an anonymous protocol like OneSwarm so we’re all covered).”

    One of the attractions of Last.fm was that it was legal. Everything it did was above board, so it could operate out in the open and no one had problems about including last.fm clients embedded in software. It made life very very easy for those who developed last.fm clients and those who used them.

    If you try and do an alternative based entirely on illegal pirated material, it would be lacking one of last.fm’s main strengths. You could technically do it, but it would always have to be half-hidden.

  11. mtron Tue, 31 Mar 2009 15:54:55 CEST

    sad for us music lovers, but what about opening vagalume for other streaming music services like soma.fm.

    They serve mp3 playlists in .pls extension (the mp3′s even have better quality as last.fm streams). see e.g. http://somafm.com/play/spacestation

    Maybe vagalume could stay very useful for non-lastfm subscribers this way.

    cheers!

  12. berto Tue, 31 Mar 2009 16:00:52 CEST

    mtron, it’s a possibility, there are other similar services such as Jamendo too.

    Vagalume was intended specifically for Last.fm and I’d like to keep using it as such, but of course other possibilities are open.

    Right now I’m waiting to see how all this ends up before making major changes.

    Thanks for your suggestions anyway (I like soma.fm btw).

  13. [...] I already talked about this change in my previous post and I think that I don’t have much more to add. [...]

  14. Undeclared Thu, 23 Apr 2009 15:45:47 CEST

    What’s needed is an alternative that is open and free that promotes open and free culture (audio, video, text, etc) and that includes ONLY free and open media.

    This system would include p2p for distribution to minimize costs, recommendation systems and so on. The technology already exists, the only this thing missing is someone with vision to create such a service.

    Pirating only helps promoting those greedy bastards!

    Either we create such a service now or we will lose more and more in this proprietization of culture that we are seeing.

    Corporations (see Google and their agreement to move money out readers and writers hands and into greedy Corporations) pushing legislation with the collaboration of corrupted governments (see French Government) that gives more and more power above and beyond the law to screw the rights of common people.

    Let’s stop promoting those who want to criminalize everything so that they can rob a few dollars, euros, etc from each and everyone of us!

  15. music player Sat, 02 May 2009 05:43:04 CEST

    I hate this because I am an American living overseas and have been a faithful last.fm listener for a few years now. I have made several purchases on the site. Now I have to pay to listen and pay for the music I buy. I think it should be free to those of us that at least make a few purchases.