updated 01:20 pm EST, Wed January 23, 2008
Ad-driven music on Last.fm
One of the most popular social networking sites for music, Last.fm, says it is now letting users stream any music listed on the site free and legally. This is as a result of deals signed with EMI, Warner, Universal and Sony BMG, as well as "thousands" of independent labels, all of whom will receive a portion of the website's advertising revenue for each time a track plays. Artists, meanwhile, will receive a unique share of the ad revenue, paid directly. Acts can thus earn some money and exposure without being signed to a label.
For the listener, the catch is that at present, a track can only be played three times before a message promotes Last.fm's upcoming subscription service. This will allow unlimited plays, and may also permit things such listening to tracks via the desktop client.
Last.fm's business model has seen a rapid expansion since the company's purchase in May by CBS. Sony BMG became the first major label to sign up in July, and Last.fm has worked quietly since to arrange both for more labels and a sustainable business plan. Traditionally, all features of Last.fm have been free, with minimal advertising.