Last.fm announced that users outside of the US, UK, and Germany will have to pay a subscription fee. No more free.
There’s no explanation in the offial announcement, but in the comments on the blog post a spokesman stepped up with this:
These are the countries in which we have the most resources to support an ad sales organization, which is how we earn money to pay artists and labels for their music. We are focused on the US, UK, and Germany as key markets, with the help of the CBS Interactive salesforce and our own sales team here in London. Our headquarters are in the UK and we’ve always had a strong presence in DE.
And so we’ve made the decision to focus on these markets for free streaming radio. We are still available worldwide and while listening is subscription, all the other rich content on the site is still free.
Last.fm is owned and operated by CBS, which also owns the major American radio sales companies and plenty of terrestrial broadcasting, and which services the (very very large) online radio presence of AOL and Yahoo!. These guys are not blue sky. They are meat and potatoes old school traditional etc.
And they’re doing the right thing for everybody. It doesn’t help anybody to have webcasting products run on make believe. Pretend businesses don’t exist. Suspension of disbelief doesn’t work for investors. To get internet music established for real, start with balancing the books.