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.

Vagalume 0.7 released

Posted by berto on September 01, 2008

Stream your favourite records

In this world of broadband internet access, when we talk about music the concept of owning a record is losing its meaning, as anyone with a decent connection can easily download all the music that they want, but that doesn’t mean much: in the past a guy with hundreds of records at home was certainly a music lover. Nowadays any teenager with a DSL connection can easily have the same amount of songs in a few days or weeks and yet have much less interest in music.

Besides this, an increasing number of artists are uploading their songs to websites such as MySpace, Last.fm, iLike and others. So in many cases you don’t even have to download mp3 files to your computer in order to listen to new records from your favourite artists. You don’t have to own a record to be passionate about it.

If you don’t need to store in your computer your e-mail, your photos, your documents and your videos, does this mean that you don’t need to have your favourite records either? This is not the case right now, and I obviously don’t know what’s the future going to be like, but it certainly seems that things are moving in that direction.

In the case of Last.fm (and outside of the UK, US and Germany, see the previous link) there are lots of records that can be already streamed for free. Such is the case of the great Swedish label Labrador, which have their (almost) complete catalogue available in Last.fm.

Labrador

Many other artists ranging from the less popular ones (Tarántula, 6PM, Menomena) to the best sellers (Nine inch nails) can be listened on demand for free. There is a group in Last.fm dedicated to this kind of records. While you won’t see many free albums from mainstream artists, the selection is by no means restricted to unknown amateur bands with no record contract. Many well-known independent artists (those who play in the most popular music festivals and appear regularly on specialised magazines) have free albums available (examples here, here and here, and also the aforementioned Labrador label).

Vagalume 0.7 is out

For all the things explained above, it’s very useful to be able to keep a list of all your favourite music that is available on demand. That’s why the new Vagalume 0.7 introduces a new feature that I had already talked about during Guadec: bookmarks.

With the bookmark manager you can have a list of Last.fm radio URLs (those starting with lastfm://). This includes all of your favourite radios (your best friends’ libraries, your preferred tags, etc.), and also all the free music available in Last.fm. I like to think about it as the equivalent of the music library in Rhythmbox and other programs. To add free albums to your library you just need their lastfm:// address. It used to be available in each album’s page. However after the Last.fm site update it’s no longer there. They are working on it. Meanwhile, there are workarounds (see here and here).

Vagalume’s bookmark manager is still very simple, but I think that it is “good enough” TM to get started and to get the idea. It’ll be improved in future releases.

Another interesting feature in Vagalume 0.7 is that the desktop version has finally D-BUS support. Thanks to the vagalumectl script that is provided with the package, you can now control Vagalume (play, stop, skip, change radios, love tracks, etc.) from a remote host using SSH, for example.

The multimedia keys in some keyboards are supported as well. We have also added Latvian and French translations, and fixed some annoying bugs (activity in our bug tracker is increasing, thank you reporters!).

Last but not least, support for the Moblin platform has been enhanced. We have some binary packages now in case you want to try them out.

Regarding the MS Windows version, it’s still experimental. Vagalume 0.7 for Windows is not ready yet, but we’ll try to release some packages soon.

As usual, go to the Vagalume page for details on how to get it.

Going back to Germany

On another note, I’ll be flying again to Berlin in a couple of weeks, this time for OSiM World and the Maemo Summit. There’s going to be a lot of people there so it’ll be a great opportunity to meet known faces again :)

It’s also a good chance to see Vagalume running in a device other than a Nokia Internet Tablet: during OSiM World I’ll be showcasing the Moblin port in one of Intel’s MIDs.

See you in Berlin !

Satanic messages in the computer era

Posted by berto on January 22, 2008

Everyone has heard of stories about hidden messages in songs, many of which could only be heard by playing the record backwards. That was in the vinyl era. CD owners had to rip their songs into wav files and process them with a suitable software tool. For example the manpage of SoX describes its reverse efect as “Reverse the sound sample completely. Included for finding Satanic subliminals”.

Some years ago I was listening to a CD by the Scottish band Urusei Yatsura when I heard the disctintive sound of a ZX Spectrum audio tape in one of its tracks. That sound had already been used several times by some artists (such as Aphex Twin), but this time it was very sharp and sounded like a complete program.

So I loaded it into the emulator and I found a funny satanic message written by the band:

Satanic message by Urusei Yatsura

The source code (it was written in BASIC) had some comments, including this one:

What is sadder?
a. Finding this
b. Writing it

For those interested, this message can be found at the beginning of the song “Thank you” from their last album “Everybody loves Urusei Yatsura”.

You can also load this program using a ZX Spectrum emulator. Get the file in TZX format here.

Summer’s last sound

Posted by berto on August 27, 2007

Although it doesn’t officially end until 21 September, the best days of summer are gone, so I’m using the title of a single by British band Disco Inferno to post again after two months of inactivity.

This has been a good summer overall. I went a lot to the beach, attended many concerts, spent a lot of time with my friends and met people who I thought I’d never meet again. But everything has an end (and holidays too) so I’m back again at work.

I’ll seize this post to tell you that I’ve just updated my Last.fm backports for Debian and Ubuntu.

It seems that Last.fm’s protocol has changed recently, and older versions of the client have problems skipping and banning songs. This obviously affects unofficial clients as well.

So although you still can play songs in the old player, now you need at least version 1.3 of the client to do it properly. This is bad news for sarge and dapper users, as Last.fm 1.3 requires a version of Qt too recent for those distributions. Those using etch, edgy or feisty can still benefit from my backports. Users of more recent distros can install the official Debian packages created by John Stamp.

For those interested, the semi-official Debian backports (not compiled by me) are also available at backports.org so sooner or later my work with Last.fm won’t be necessary anymore. I hope that it has been useful during all this time :)

Back from Primavera Sound 2007

Posted by berto on June 05, 2007

I’ve had a great time in Primavera Sound 2007. It was a really good festival and -despite some flaws this year- very well organised.

Primavera Sound 2007

This time more than 100 artists and bands played in the festival so it’s really hard to summarize everything in a few lines. Some of my favourite concerts were (in no particular order): Wilco, Spiritualized, Billy Bragg, Sonic Youth, The Durutti Column and Malajube.

Lots of pictures and videos are already available out there.

And now, back again at work!

Finally: Last.fm again in Debian!

Posted by berto on May 11, 2007

I’m glad to announce that, after some months of unofficial packages, John Stamp is now the official Debian maintainer of the Last.fm client.

You can find his packages in the official Debian and Ubuntu repositories. So if you’re using the development version of either distribution you can forget about this page and install this software using apt-get.

However, as many people are using etch, feisty, or some previous version of Debian or Ubuntu, I’ll keep compiling backports of John’s packages for these distributions, at least for some time.

You can get them from my home page, as usually.

DudesConf and Last.fm update

Posted by berto on April 19, 2007

We had a great time last weekend at DudesConf. We met a lot of Debian people from all parts of Spain (and some non-Spaniards too) and had some interesting talks and BOFs. Check Mario’s report and don’t miss our photo with Steve Langasek!

As usual, John has been doing the hard work and has updated the Debian diff for the Last.fm client.

I have been very busy these days so I had no time to release the packages until today. These are the news:

  • Added Turkish translation.
  • Added a patch to prevent text relocations. Users of 64-bit architectures should benefit from this.
  • I’ve compiled a new package for Ubuntu Feisty (although the one for Edgy should work as well).

You can get the packages here.

Backported patches to sarge and dapper

Posted by berto on February 05, 2007

Johh has backported the latest patches he created for the etch/edgy versions of Last.fm to version 1.0.7, so Debian sarge and Ubuntu dapper users can benefit for them. Changes include the ability to select the web browser from the configuration dialog, a new ALSA plugin and some other minor fixes.

Last.fm 1.1.3.0 for Debian etch and Ubuntu edgy has been updated too, including a fix for environments with several sound cards.

Full changelog and source code here. Binaries here.

Last.fm for amd64

Posted by berto on February 02, 2007

Although there are only official binaries of Last.fm for x86 processors, faxm0dem has managed to have Last.fm compiled for amd64. And it seems to work, so I put it in my webpage.

Currently just for Debian etch, but I guess it should work in Ubuntu edgy too.

Last.fm in your language: 1.1.3.0 is out!

Posted by berto on January 28, 2007

Just a couple of days after we published an update for Last.fm 1.0.9.6, a new version was released: Last.fm 1.1.3.0.

Besides some bugfixes, the UI has been translated into several languages, so you can run this program in english, italian, german, french, spanish, portuguese, polish, russian, japanese and korean.

Moreover, this time the Last.fm team has released a Debian package (for Debian etch), available from the Last.fm downloads page.

However you still might find our packages interesting because:

  • We’re including some enhancements not available in the official version.
  • We have packages for several distros: Debian sarge and etch, Ubuntu dapper and edgy.

As usual, you can get the source code and diff at John’s page for original source code, Debian diff and a description of our changes. The compiled packages are available here.

And as usual, feedback is appreciated. Enjoy!