Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Last FM summons whine: Switches off services

For a moment, our gaze is directed away from PRS attacks on Google to the trouble over at Last FM this morning, as the service owners take steps to make it less useful to as many people as possible.

In what we're taking as the largest marketing campaign yet embarked upon on behalf of Spotify, Last FM has thrown up a pay wall around most of its music streams. If you're in Germany, the US or the UK, you can still stream music for free; elsewhere - I haven't had a chance to consult a Gazetteer, but I believe that's 'elsewhere' as in 'nearly all the world' - you'll have to hand over EUR3 a month to hear Last FM radio.

Sorry, I'll read that again: outside those three countries, you'll go elsewhere for your music.

The reason for the paywall is to try and summon some money to pay royalties and return some cash to owners CBS. It's almost as if everyone involved has this far been working on a mistaken assumption of what the financial value of recorded music is online, and is trying to shape their service to match that, rather than finding out where the value point is and building around that. Why does that sound familiar?

But it's not just by closing out the French, the Candians, the French Canadians, the good people of the Gabon and the Leeward Islanders by which Last FM is attempting to scupper itself. Oh, no. Last FM isn't merely getting in the bath with an electric toaster, it's going to take two catering size jars of paracetamol, washed down with a bottle of whisky:

Last.fm has said that all non-official mobile clients will be banned. This isn't going over well.

The change comes with a new developer API that will actually make things much easier for other developers, who've had to rely on a few undocumented calls up until now. Current licensing agreements with labels—who Last.fm is in no position to alienate—prohibit mobile streaming, though the company's official mobile radio apps—right now just on the iPhone and Android—will still work fine.

Oh, yes. People love the stuff we do so much they build services to help us reach new audiences and move across platforms. Let's stop that happening, then.

Now, of course, there would be objections from the labels - who have never seen a digital development they didn't want blocked by an act of Congress - but surely Last FM could try and win them round? And, if they're really so keen to have 'official' apps for mobile, why not talk to the unofficial guys and see if they can't be brought in-house, or at least given a blessing?

Instead, plugs are pulled. Services are yanked. And a happy web community are happy no more:
That really sucks
I renewed my subscription (I have been a subscriber for a few years) but now regret it as I will no longer be able to listen to the radios in my usual music player, so I paid for nothing.
[...]
How sad and dissappointing
You are throwing to the waste bin thousand of free development hours (including many of my own) that directly benefited Last.fm.

I'm sorry that it has come to this. Don't forget that the main value of Last.fm has been created by its users scrobbling songs, writing the wiki, uploading music, writing software...
[...]
Let me tell you something
The Future of Last.fm is... well, you just have no future. You should be ashamed of this move. You are what you are because of the community (artists, listeners, developers...) and these things are against the community. It's kind of suicidal. You're dead.
R.I.P. Last FM

P.S.
Russ said: Scrobbling will always be free.
Well, it would be surrealistic to charge us for giving you our data... that's what feeds last.fm

Still, I'm sure that Last FM's current userbase will sit tight, and wait until they're allowed to listen to music on their "mobile devices". I'm sure. The internet user base is known for its patience.

Incidentally, tucked in the debate is how, precisely, Last FM defines a mobile device. This is Last FM staffer Russ's response to a question about that:
Re: Re: The Future of Last.fm Radio APIs
achitnis said:
What defines a "mobile phone" in this case? What about, say, a Nokia N810, which is an Internet tablet/MID, NOT A PHONE. Would this be barred from using the API in an application such as Vagalume to stream music? What about dedicated internet radios? These are all "portable" devices that are not phones, but are certainly mobile.

The N810 doesn't connect to a cellular data network, so it's not a phone.

So, that's the important distinction, is it? So... an iPod Touch connects via WiFI - presumably the apps are fine there, then; while the same app running on the same operating system on an iPhone suddenly becomes invalid because there's an extra antennae in the back of the device? When was this phone/not phone distinction made, precisely? 1803? If you unplug your laptop from an ethernet connection and stick in a 3 dongle, should you stop using Last FM as you're now connecting via a cellular network?

It would be funny if the internet wasn't going to lose a valuable, lovely resource as a result of it all.


1 comment:

Laura Brown said...

I suppose it's just a matter of time before they do something like that in Britain too, isn't it? And just when I'd become addicted to the site, too (I'm a Top Listener to Shostakovich in both Roman letters AND Cyrillic! I'm so proud!). If it stops being free, I guess I'll have to take my husband's advice and just write down everything I listen to on the back of an old paper bag.

Seriously, this sucks. It seems like no good online music service can last long.

Post a Comment

As a general rule, posts will only be deleted if they reek of spam.