The well known music streaming and recommendation service, Last.fm, has announced that its online radio stations will become a premium only service. This will directly affect users of Mobbler, the only Last.fm client available for Symbian. For some time now, the Last.fm streaming radio stations have been available for free listening, supported by advertisements. Last.fm states on its blog that it has not been practical to support music streaming to emerging mobile markets, based on advertising income. Read on for more.
Last.fm has long been known as a music recommendation service, building up a profile of its users’ listening tastes by allowing them to log what they’re playing, a process known as 'Scrobbling'. Users can then tune into a station which plays tracks recommended for them based on their Scrobbling history. Stations can be based on tracks similar to a particular artist or anything with a matching keyword. Users can also listen to a stream of tracks recently listened to by other Last.fm users with similar tastes, known as the 'Neighbourhood' station.
Primarily though, users have always had the 'Recommended' station, where Last.fm will select music for the listener based on their current tastes. Until last year, there was also a 'Personal library' station, which was replaced in October 2010, with the 'Mix' station, which plays a mix of Scrobbled and recommended tracks.
Last.fm’s Matthew Hawn said on the Last.fm blog:
“On the Last.fm website, an ad-supported, free-to-listeners model is what supports our online radio services in the US, UK and Germany. In other markets and on emerging mobile and home entertainment devices, it is not practical for us to deliver an ad-supported radio experience, but instead, we will migrate to what we believe is the highest quality, lowest cost ad-free music service in the world.”
Mobbler brought Last.fm to Symbian
The premium rate changes only effect users of Last.fm mobile applications and home entertainment systems. Users listening via the Last.fm website, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Windows Phone 7 devices will be unaffected.
Furthermore, other services (including Scrobbling) will still be free to use:
“This change only affects the radio component of Last.fm’s services on mobile and home entertainment devices. Other features of our service — like scrobbling, music and event recommendations, social networking and community forums, and Last.fm’s wiki-based artist information pages — remain free to users worldwide.”
Some users have reacted negatively to this, citing that they will move to other streaming services like Spotify. However, it should be considered that Spotify and Last.fm are very different services. Significantly, Spotify allows one to specify exactly what one wants to listen to, while Last.fm is in control of which tracks are played to its users. Also, while Spotify has subscription rates of £5.00 and £10.00 (UKP) per month, a Last.fm subscription still only costs £3.00 per month.
David Gilson for All About Symbian, 10th February 2011.