Page last updated at 15:28 GMT, Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Last.fm to charge for streaming

Last.fm screenshot
The site long served as the vanguard of the UK's Web 2.0 activities

Internet radio and social music site Last.fm is to start charging listeners outside the UK, US, and Germany.

Users outside those three countries will pay 3 euros per month to listen to Last.fm Radio, the site's streaming music service.

The other content on the site, such as biographies, videos, charts, and "scrobbling" - the site's musical profiling - will remain free for all.

Those subject to subscription will first be allowed a 30-track free trial.

"Sure, this was a business decision," said Last.fm's Matthew Ogle, in response to a number of queries that users raised on the company's blog.

"But after looking at our resources and opportunities we think it's the best way to keep improving Last.fm radio (and also support all the other free services on Last.fm)."

The company says that its existing sales force, in combination with that of CBS, which bought the firm in 2007, could cover its licensing costs through advertisement revenue in the UK, US and Germany.

Elsewhere, it says, those costs will have to be covered by subscription.

"While we would like to provide the same service for users of all countries," said Last.fm's Owen, "the world is a huge place and it's not cheap to deliver music over the Internet."

Reaction to the decision was largely negative on the blog post, with many users declaring that they would delete their accounts rather than pay up.

"A word of the wise: if this charge ever comes to the UK, I'll be ditching my subscription immediately. Right now, you're just making Spotify look more and more attractive," said blog poster StudleyUK.

Avinash Meetoo, a blog poster and Last.fm-contributing musician from Mauritius, suggested that the site should have introduced a quota - free for a certain number of hours per day, and charged thereafter.

"This would allow people like me (who have been contributing to the Last.fm database for years now) not to feel completely abandoned. Don't forget that last.fm is what it is because of us," he said.



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