Last.fm Joins The Crowd In Offering Not-Really-Free Music; Press Hypes It As New

from the not-as-good-as-it-sounds dept

The press is having a field day with Last.fm's announcement today that it's now offering "free" music. It has the type of "hook" that the press loves. A site that's willing to stream music for free. It's so tempting to tell that story that everyone seems to be missing a few important details. Detail #1: It's not really free. Detail #2: It's nothing new at all. It doesn't let you download music. It merely lets you stream it. And, even then, you're only limited to 3 streams before you can no longer hear that song again without buying it. That sounds quite similar to the program that RealNetworks launched nearly three years ago allowing you to stream 25 songs per month for free. Or how about Napster's program, launched in 2006, which let you stream songs five times for free before asking you to pay up. If anything, the Last.fm deal, with only 3 streams, is a lot more limited than these earlier offerings. And, yet, just as they did with the RealNetworks and Napster deals in years past, the press is raving about this "free music" offering from Last.fm and CBS (owner of Last.fm). The NY Times is incorrectly claiming that Last.fm is "the first company" to do this. Reuters is calling it "free music on demand", completely ignoring the limit of only three streams. The UK's Times Online suggests this somehow is moving the world closer to "legally" listening to free music online. Almost every article on the story has a similar theme, and almost no one seems to note that this isn't really free and it's certainly not particularly different than what's been out there for years. Apparently, if you want gushing press, all you need to do is announce "free" online music, even if the details suggest something entirely different.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    eliot, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 2:46pm

    well at least someone is reporting correct news. every other article and annoucement i've seen about this news has been reporting exactly what is said above: "omg last.fm has free music, even whole albums!"

    thank you techdirt

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 2:52pm

    Well you can't expect the mainstream media to fact check everything! Geez, how would they ever have time to do real journalism then?

     

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  3.  
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    StevenLeach, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 3:09pm

    Sanity at last

    Thank you for being a voice of sanity in this ocean of people who are unable or unwilling to read and or check their facts !!!!

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Hulser, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 3:21pm

    Institutional Knowledge

    The irony here is that, according to their own the self-described superiority, the old school media news organizations have the kind of institutional knowledge that should have known these claims were false and the high journalistic standards that should have questioned the press release instead of just regurgitating it back to the public.

     

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  5.  
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    another mike, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 3:32pm

    free music

    I like free music. "Free like fashion" is almost as good as "free as in beer." It's a shame that this isn't either.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 3:32pm

    If the labels support it and really fill it up with millions of songs and I can begin to find non top 40 garbage on there, then it is worth it. The real news isnt the tech, its that I can explore music that doesnt play on the radio--with the labels help! That is, if it ends up being a useful exploration platform.

    There are literally dozens of albums I would buy right now if only I could hear the songs first.

     

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  7.  
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    Yo ho ho...., Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 4:06pm

    Free... its all free...

    The internet is free... therefore everything on it must be free...

    Let's see those media types run with that conclusion!

     

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  8.  
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    mimic, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 5:20pm

    exactly

    i was wondering when someone would notice that it wasn't as good as they made out. no idea where everyone is getting all this enthusiasm from.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 5:23pm

    Re:

    There are literally dozens of albums I would buy right now if only I could hear the songs first.

    I've seen records stores that let people listen before they buy. So there you go.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    BigUser, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 5:27pm

    Record work?

    At work, have not tried to see if StationRipper can download these new songs - I know it works for normal "stations/streams/whatever", but will it work for these?

     

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  11.  
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    Tony, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 5:35pm

    Why not use Pandora

    while i haven't looked at this program yet, how on earth could this be so "earth shattering"? Don't we already get free radio streaming in itunes, minus the insane restriction of three songs?

    What about pandora.com, which not only lets you stream endlessly, but has an insane bank of songs and artists and an operating philosophy that brings you music you didn't know you loved?

    it seems crazy to me that this last.fm is even registering a blip on the radar.

     

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  12.  
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    Simon Chamberlain, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 5:38pm

    Not to mention....

    That it's only available in the USA, UK and Germany. Three big markets, sure - but what about the rest of us?

    Actually though, this looks pretty good: not as amazing as some of the media are claiming, but still pretty good. I liked last.fm a lot when it was "just" a way to find new music and stream songs that were like a particular artist or genre. Adding in the ability to listen to specific songs makes their service more useful to me.

    In reply to AC at #6: last.fm will already let you find lots of non-top 40 music. Give it a try (or try pandora.com, if you're in the US).

     

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  13.  
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    atomatom, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 6:37pm

    Who could possibly care when you've got Deezer.com, where they've been streaming music for free for quite a while now?

     

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  14.  
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    Jack, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 6:54pm

    From Last FM´s blog "The soon-to-be announced subscription service will give you unlimited plays and some other useful things". When you pay the subscription fee you can play all songs from their entire library how many times you want, I think. I would gladly a few dollars for that! I still think this is very good news (even if media exagerates a bit). You get good recommendations and then you can stream as much as you want.

    I think Deezer,Pandora,Imeem, Songza, Spotify and the others will have problems competing with this...

     

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  15.  
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    brian, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 7:15pm

    Last.fm is pandora and more

    "What about pandora.com, which not only lets you stream endlessly, but has an insane bank of songs and artists and an operating philosophy that brings you music you didn't know you loved?"

    Last.fm already is very similar to pandora. It lets me pick any artist and listen to a streaming station of similar artists. It's my understanding that the similar artists are built by tracking the tastes of users- while I listen to music on my mp3 player I "scrobble" a record of what i'm listening to to last.fm. It sounds like all the new service does is remove some offer streaming without the social and music exploration aspects of their stellar current free service.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 8:25pm

    Re: Re:

    record stores. great. hope you like one of the 1000 cds you can find at one of those.

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Scorpiaux, Jan 23rd, 2008 @ 8:39pm

    Same ol, same ol

    From the wishful-get-something-for-nothing dept.

    The demagoguery here just keeps on keeping on. Mike continues to rail against intellectual property concepts and laws and his audience responds with enthusiasm over the unrealistic expectation that one day all music will be free.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    ipanema, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 1:36am

    hmmm

    ...you're only limited to 3 streams before you can no longer hear that song again without buying it.

    well, thanks for that info. i wonder why i couldn't really hear songs i used to listen. time to take it out of the sidebar i guess.

     

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  19.  
    icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 24th, 2008 @ 5:23am

    Re #17 Scorpiaux

    Troll much?
    You can't beat economics 101. Thats just how it is man (or woman).
    Infinitely availble = price driven to Zero.
    It is unavoidable.
    Music will be free. Whether or, or anyone else, likes it or not. Especially since everybody (except those who make money Only off of the current model and refuse to adapt) wants it to be this way anyways.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Dan, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 7:51am

    Re: Same ol, same ol

    "Mike continues to rail against intellectual property concepts and laws and his audience responds with enthusiasm over the unrealistic expectation that one day all music will be free."

    Actually, from what I've seen, Mike's arguments have been against the implementation of IP concepts, not the concepts themselves. As far as railing against the laws, it's quite simple - there are bad IP laws that have been passed, including the DMCA and the Copyright Term Extension Act. Criticizing and arguing against laws you disagree with is part of the democratic process.

    Additionally, the purpose of this article was to point out the exaggeration of last.fm's "free music" by the media, and that it's simply not true nor an original idea. Why you're trying to address an issue that has no real connection to the subject is a bit confusing.

    That being said...I don't necessarily think the recording industry should be giving away music. But I also don't think the RIAA should be bitching and moaning about their bogus piracy statistics and using them to influence our government to pass laws that restrict fair use and force ISP's to filter content.

    "From the wishful-get-something-for-nothing dept."

    Maybe if you keep saying the same unsubstantiated BS over and over again, it will come true. It might actually be true for a few people here, but you keep attempting to lump everyone who disagrees with you in this category. Come up with a new catch phrase, at least.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    JGM, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 8:31am

    No breakthrough

    Pandora (as others have noted) gives better "value", and other sites like Finetune allow you to define a playlist with no limitations on the number of plays. There's nothing wrong with Last.fm but I agree that there is no breakthrough here.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 10:48am

    Re: Re: Re:

    record stores. great. hope you like one of the 1000 cds you can find at one of those.

    That would be a pretty small record store.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Simon Chamberlain, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 1:40pm

    Pandora is cool but...

    It doesn't let you choose what song you want to hear - it lets you define a station based on tags or on similarity to a given band/song. If I understand right, last.fm is allowing you to choose to hear a specific song (albeit only 3 times). Quite a difference.

    (Also, Pandora is US-only now, sadly for the rest of us).

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Joe, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 2:59pm

    Ahem

    If you want a better product than last.fm or Pandora and *are* willing to pay for it, slacker.com is a much better investment.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Cixelsid, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 3:46pm

    In other news...

    The democrates are causing the recession.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Cixelsid, Jan 24th, 2008 @ 3:48pm

    Oh and...

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 3:41pm

    cool

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    jezebelzlova, Jan 25th, 2008 @ 5:42pm

    totally fiction

    ok i may be inclined to imeem since i'm a user, but imeem was the first site to announce full on-demand UNLIMITED streaming of both audio and video. i'm a user of of the three music bigwigs: imeem, last.fm, and pandora. imeem definitely was first and last.fm and their blueprint, new napster, and others are following. pandora is still the best easiest recommedation tool, but imeem is the best music community with on-demand full streaming. mainstreeam press is eating up the CBS bullsh_t.

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Steve S, Feb 4th, 2008 @ 7:29pm

    Re: competition

    An analysis of what's available on 4 different free sites.
    http://youngstv.imeem.com/blogs/2008/01/31/_v6jwLC7/a_comparison_of_lastfm_vs_imeem_vs_deeze r_vs_spiralfrog

    last.fm came 3rd, with behind both imeem and deezer.

    so last.fm has less choice and a 3 stream limit so it's already a 3rd place choice

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    tom, Jan 24th, 2009 @ 4:00pm

    Re: Huh?

    Wait, you'd buy dozens of albums if only you could listen to them first? But that sounds like you're not sure you want to buy them.

    With the sad state of pop music,I suspect that giving people a chance to hear the entire album would mean fewer sales, not more.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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