Last.fm has been considered to be an online music pioneer since starting in 2002. But like many pioneers, it's gotten hit by a few arrows over the years as it tries to find the right business model for streaming music.
The latest of those struck Wednesday, when Last.fm announced on its forum it will be shutting down its streaming radio service on April 28. While undoubtedly a blow, the news may not be all that fatal.
Last.fm said it will continue to deliver personalized music to its listeners via a new music player that's currently being tested. The difference is the music will not come from its own servers. Instead, music will be piped in from YouTube and VEVO onto the new player. The company, owned by CBS Interactive, struck a similar deal late January to plug into Spotify as a source. These two arrangements allow Last.fm to avoid paying music licensing fees while still delivering streaming music to its users.
"Following the launch of the new Last.fm Player earlier this year and Last.fm's partnership with Spotify for on-demand playback, we've revised the subscription service in order to focus on the new Last.fm Player and Last.fm's over-arching mission: world-class music recommendations," Simon Moran, Managing Director, Last.fm., said in a statement.
It's unclear how many subscribers to Last.fm's current streaming radio service will be affected as the company does not disclose those figures. Last.fm reported 55 million registered users, but does not say how many are actively using the free playlisting and recommendation service and how many pay $3 a month for the personalized streaming radio service.
Moran said that the "subscription changes only affect a small sub-set of Last.fm users."
Though perhaps a minority, subscribers still grumbled about the change on the company's forum. But not all said they would abandon Last.fm, which became known for "scrobbling" its users music listening habits to serve up custom playlists.
"This is a disappointing announcement, to say the least," a subscriber who goes by the handle cs188 wrote. "I love the unique offerings that traditional Last.fm radio is able to provide, and I'm sure going to miss it.... However, since scrobbling and stats collection is the primary reason I signed up in the first place, this doesn't kill Last.fm for me. As long as you keep our listening stats safe and continue offering good music recommendations, I'm still on board."