Last.fm tries the subscription model

by Mathew on January 23, 2008 · 8 comments

For a Web company, the downside to getting acquired — as Last.fm was by media giant CBS last year, for $280-million — is that you have to actually start making money, and that means coming up with a business model that will satisfy the guys in suits. I think that, combined with the lame demands of the major music labels, explains a lot about the news out of Last.fm about their new subscription service.

The upside of the new features? Music from all four of the big record companies will be available. The downside? You get to stream songs just three times — accompanied by advertising, of course — before you get the corporate “up-sell” offer, in which Last tries to convince you to pay for the subscription version of the service, which apparently features unlimited streaming (no word on downloads).

As Adam Ostrow at Mashable notes, the advertising-supported streaming is similar to the model used by Imeem. But will Last.fm really be able to make enough from that approach to pay the labels for every stream? Colour me skeptical. I don’t know exactly how much the labels charge for a stream, but I’m betting it’s a lot. The other question, of course, is whether subscription-based streaming will work at all — if I were Rhapsody or Napster I’d be worried about Last.fm eating into a market that doesn’t show much sign of actually growing, last time I looked.

Note for Canucks:

You’re out of luck. It’s available in the U.S., the UK and Germany (why Germany?), but not the Great White North.

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