As of today, you can play full-length tracks and entire albums for free on the Last.fm website.That's very cool, but what I'm also very excited about is:
Something we've wanted for years--for people who visit Last.fm to be able to play any track for free--is now possible. With the support of the folks behind EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner--and the artists they work with--plus thousands of independent artists and labels, we've made the biggest legal collection of music available to play online for free, the way we believe it should be.
Free full-length tracks are obviously great news for listeners, but also great for artists and labels, who get paid every time someone streams a song. Music on Last.fm is perpetually monetized. This is good because artists get paid based on how popular a song is with their fans, instead of a fixed amount.This is a great news. Some rights collections agencies have various restrictions such as banning Creative Commons licenses and this should give artists in these regions a new choice for generating revenue on their music.
We will be paying artists directly.
We already have licenses with the various royalty collection societies, but now unsigned artists can put their music on Last.fm and be paid directly for every song played. This helps to level the playing-field--now you can make music, upload it to Last.fm and earn money for each play. If you make music, you can sign up to participate for free.
Good job guys.
Disclosure: I was an investor in last.fm before they were acquired by CBS. Now I am a friend and occasionally advise them on their business.