The popular music site Last.fm announced today that beginning immediately, you can listen to entire music tracks and full-length albums for free. Previously, you could only hear excerpts of most tracks, which made Last.fm a great place for discovering new artists but a rotten one for actually listening to them. The site is taking a Flickr-style approach to its new service, offering a free version—you can listen to a track up to three times—and a forthcoming subscription service which will allow for unlimited streaming. This sounds good, but we’re curious about the three-listen limit, and how frequently that count is reset, if ever.
What’s particularly nice about the service is Last.fm has arranged to pay artists directly every time a song is streamed, and independent artists are treated as equals to those stuck under big labels.
We already have licenses with the various royalty collection societies, but now unsigned artists can put their music on Last.fm and be paid directly for every song played. This helps to level the playing-field–now you can make music, upload it to Last.fm and earn money for each play. If you make music, you can sign up to participate for free.
We’re not printing money to pay for this–but the business model is simple enough: we are paying artists and labels a share of advertising revenue from the website.