Tag Archives | Last.fm

Last.fm: The Free Ride is Over for Smartphones

It’s no secret that streaming music services must pay a licensing premium to offer their libraries on smartphones and other devices, but now it seems that Last.fm’s ad revenue wasn’t enough to pay those bills.

Effective February 15, Last.fm will charge $3 per month for access on iPhones, Android phones and home entertainment devices such as Sonos and Logitech’s Squeezebox. The exceptions are Microsoft’s Xbox 360, which includes Last.fm with a $50 per year Xbox Live subscription, and Windows Phone 7, which will remain free through 2011. Ads will be removed as part of the shake-up.

Last.fm’s website will remain free with advertising in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, but Matthew Hawn, Last.fm’s vice president of product, explained in a blog post that an ad-supported service is simply “not practical” on other devices and in other countries.

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Microsoft Pats Its Back for New Xbox Live Features

Last week, Microsoft brought Facebook, Twitter, Last.fm and the Zune Marketplace to Xbox Live. And it’s been a rousing success! According to Microsoft, at least.

The company says nearly two million people signed into Facebook from Xbox Live in less than a week since the feature launched on November 17. Almost one million people created Last.fm Internet radio profiles, and 1.7 million people checked out the Zune Marketplace, which is the Xbox 360’s new digital storefront for 1080p video. Microsoft suspiciously left out usage numbers for Twitter, saying only that the service “was abuzz” with Xbox-based tweets.

There is, of course, reason to be skeptical about these numbers and what they mean. Usually, Facebook and Twitter are only open to paid Xbox Live Gold subscribers, but from November 20 until yesterday, those services along with the rest of Xbox Live Gold were open to everyone in the United States, including non-paid Silver members. That means more of Xbox Live’s 20 million total active users may have tried the new services than usual.

And besides, trying doesn’t mean liking. I signed in to Facebook and sent a Tweet from Twitter, but didn’t particularly enjoy either experience. I fired up the Zune Marketplace but didn’t buy anything (and actually, I was sort of offended that music videos cost $1 to $2, when you can easily find them for free on YouTube). The only service I used in earnest was Last.fm, which came in handy for a party I happened be throwing over the weekend.

There was one statistic from Microsoft that was truly impressive: On November 10, launch day for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, more than 2.2 million people logged in to play. It’s proof that no matter how hard Microsoft tries to show the value in all of Xbox Live’s extra services, it’s still all about the games.

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Last.fm the First Taste of Ads on Xbox Live?

xboxlivecardMicrosoft left us mostly in the dark at E3 when announcing that Last.fm, the Internet radio station, is coming to Xbox Live. Now, Joystiq has filled in some of the blanks with Xbox Live general manager Christina DeRosa.

Silver-level subscribers — i.e. the ones who don’t pay — can listen for “a trial period” of three hours per month, with occasional video advertisements, DeRosa said. Gold users will get unlimited ad-supported access. A third, commercial-free tier will cost extra.

That’s all good to know, but what’s really interesting is that Microsoft is finally opening the door to ad-supported content. In its current state, Xbox Live is transaction-based. You’ll get a free map pack here and there — and some of them have been sponsored by a third party — but most of the content on Xbox Live requires money, regardless of whether your a paying member or not. Last.fm is either an outlier or a sign of what’s to come.

With Twitter and Facebook integration coming to the service, I wonder if Microsoft has a similar ad-supported plan in mind. It seems likely, considering a recent report by MediaPost that says Microsoft will bring Silverlight to Xbox Live within a year, making it easier for advertisers to get their message onto multiple platforms. If there’s any Xbox Live feature that seems ripe for ads, it’s social networking.

Looking further ahead, could all of this signify a completely ad-supported Xbox Live, as Official Xbox Magazine suggests? I doubt it. My instinct says Microsoft wouldn’t want a free service to cannibalize the paid one, but I can’t say for sure without knowing the ratio of Gold to Silver subscribers, and the company doesn’t disclose that information. I do know that Xbox Live is rich with features, and sticking ads into all its nooks and crannies would be a Godawful mess.

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