After news last week that SpiralFrog has shut its doors, another reality check for ad-supported music services. CBS-owned Last.fm has started charging users outside of the US, UK and Germany, €3 per month (approx. $4.40), to make up for the short fall in advertising revenue.
“While we would like to provide the same service for users of all countries – the world is a huge place and it’s not cheap to deliver music over the Internet”, Last.fm’s Owen Parry explained on the company’s blog.
More bad news has since slipped out. Following an update to the service’s public API, which allows third-party developers to build applications based on Last.fm, the company is no longer tolerating unofficial mobile clients, such as Pocket Scrobbler on Windows Mobile or the Symbian S60-based Mobbler, which I run on my beloved Nokia E71. Both of these apps were free to download, which can’t be said for FlipSide, a Last.fm client for BlackBerry that will also soon be silenced. Ouch.
Of course, none of this is really Last.fm’s fault, but is at the request of the record labels with whom they license music from. A Last.fm mobile app, outside of the company’s own official offerings (for iPhone and Android), isn’t covered by the terms of those deals, although Last.fm has back tracked a little by suggesting that any third-party who wants to build a mobile client can contact the company direct to see if a deal can be done. Any deal would obviously involve putting money on the table, most of which, presumably, would go straight to the major labels.
Where does this leave other ad-supported music services, such as Pandora, my new favourite Spotify, Qtrax, or the UK’s We7 (currently a last100 sponsor), is anybody’s guess, especially now that we’ve entered a global downturn. Although Pandora, Spotify and We7 have restricted certain countries from accessing their services from the very beginning and both Pandora and Spotify offer an alternative subscription-based version.