frenchknight
Dunechaser


“Today we’re redesigning the music economy.”

So says Last.fm, who with a slight front-end interface change and a blog post yesterday, launched a new dimension to their social music network.

What they are now offering is essentially free on-demand listening. Any visitor to the site can listen to any of the full-length songs three times before it reverts back to the :30 second “clip” standard.

Last.fm has offered up streaming radio in thousands of configurable forms for a while now, but this is another thing altogether.

As a destination, Last.fm is more, erm, destination-y. They’re also prepping themselves for a subscription model, through which listening restrictions disappear and participants get “unlimited access” to music from their partnerships with Universal Music Group, Sony BMG, Warner, EMI and thousands of indie labels and individual artists.

If “unlimited access” means DRM-free downloads in any shape or form, this could be quite a shake-up. If not, it’s made the interesting network that much more interesting. Here’s a few points of interest from yesterday’s post:

Free full-length tracks are obviously great news for listeners, but also great for artists and labels, who get paid every time someone streams a song. Music on Last.fm is perpetually monetized. This is good because artists get paid based on how popular a song is with their fans, instead of a fixed amount.

A very direct, measurable way for artists to get paid for “airplay.” I wonder what artists on medium-sized indies or long-time independent artists could stand to make. Honestly, with Last.fm, I feel spoiled as a consumer and there’s more music to discover than I could ever find the time to listen to. So I have to shift my attention to the artists here. Even if the majors are now becoming minor, there are a lot of people trying to make a living, and how to do that in a digital world is unclear at best. I hope new platforms such as this one are a step in the right direction.

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.

I’m guessing hoping this will be a hell of a lot easier to do than get your music sold on the iTunes Music Store, and maybe a little more useful to market your music once you’re there.

The only piece of this that seems old school and suspect is the reliance on advertising revenue. Ads are pretty sparse right now — I can only imagine this means they’ll be more pervasive in Last.fm’s future. With a robust social network built upon the discovery of music, ads for albums and artists seem very redundant, and music devices even more so. I’d be silly to assume that ad revenue wouldn’t be part of the plan, it’s just ironic to have your targeted signal floating on top of all that noise.

I’m excited to see where this leads, but it’s too early to tell — is it a grail? Or a Grail-shaped beacon?

If it’s the latter, there’s always the spanking and oral sex.

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