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Free Music - Last fm To Start Charging Some Users

This month the internet radio and social music site Last.fm revealed they will soon be charging listeners outside the UK, the US, and Germany. Listeners outside of these countries will be charged a minimum equivalent of 3 euro (four US dollars) per month to access the site's streaming music service, although other content including videos, charts and the site's musical profiling, known as "scrobbling" will remain free of charge for everyone.

Users who become subject to the new monthly subscription will have the opportunity to take a 30-track free music trial. In response to concerned messages left on the company's blog, Last.fm defends the move as a purely commercial one that will enable their service to continue to meet the demands of its customers and cover licensing costs in countries where advertising revenue falls short. They argue that despite wishing to offer the same service to all users worldwide, the feasibility of delivering music over the internet to one country's audience is not always as cheap as offering it across an international border. It is clear from the comments left on blog posts that the general reaction to the decision has been largely negative, and many users have threatened to go elsewhere. Many of the customers who have been using the site for years feel completely abandoned, and consider their ongoing support since it first emerged has made the site what they are today.

Free Music Coming To An End?

If you are a regular listener to online music, you'll know for a fact how difficult it is to gain access to a free service. Last.fm was one of the few sites that allowed this, and now it seems the shrinking world economy is to blame. A disappointing take-up in advertising on the site in countries except the UK, US and Germany has resulted in the decision to charge users in countries where they are most likely to have no other option than to pay, or go without. Last year, regular listeners to Pandora's streaming music users who were based outside the United States, including the UK and Canada, met a similar fate, which Pandora attributed to license rates. When it first launched in East London in 2002, Last.fm claimed to be the first music website to offer on-demand access to songs from the four major record labels -- Universal Music Group, Sony/BMG, Warner and EMI – to global users – for free. Five years later it was snapped up by US media monster CBS Corporation for £140m. At the time, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves hailed the acquisition as being in perfect harmony with the CBS philosophy of attracting "younger viewers and listeners across our businesses," who ironically possess the least amount of money to spend on listening to music. Now in 2009, Last.fm boasts over 30 million users a month who have had access to more than seven million music clips. It will be interesting to see how these healthy figures will be affected by this announcement.

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© April 2009

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