Monthly Archives: May 2011

Too little too late at Last FM

Today both Last.fm and Spotify have announced (or should I say leaked in the case of the latter) news on advancements in their “social” music services.

Rumours have surfaced that Spotify will be working even more closely with Facebook. The music platform already allows Facebook friends to share playlists and lets users listen and subscribe to other friend’s Spotify tracks.

The leak is vague but it would seem that the two platforms will become even more integrated with Spotify becoming a portal for the Facebook user’s soundtrack to their online socialising.

This news, rather coincidently comes on the back of a big announcement from Last.fm which has hired a team of developers to give the portal a facelift making it more ‘mainstream’ by allowing users to sign in via their Facebook account and share songs.

Vice-president Matthew Hawn said: “We now need to focus on making the service more mainstream and plugged into people’s other music experiences and social networks. If Foursquare is where you publish your location, and Facebook is where you socially connect, Last.fm should be where you publish your taste in music.”

Hmmm. Isn’t this all a case of (far) too little (far) too late?

Last.fm was fantastic when it started out almost 10 years ago now and really came into its own around 05/06, providing personalised internet radio, music recommendations and personalised playlists from the listening history of itself and other players such as iTunes and Windows Media.

However in 2007 it was purchased by CBS for £140m and failed to progress. The timing of the takeover also collided with the UK launch of Spotify which really caused Last.fm major headaches, especially when Last.fm ignorantly stopped its on-demand service and introduced subscription fees.

Essentially the service became a poor man’s Spotify, with the latter simply becoming better at providing everything that Last.fm wanted to do.

As one heavy user of both services told me: “Last.fm started with an elegant way of connecting music enthusiasts with hard-to-find music and with each other.  Good data and the scrobbling concept were fundamental. Once it sold up there was no survival plan for the original central ideas and simple market economics drove it into being something different that was never going to work.

“Soundcloud and Bandcamp have taken over much of Last.fm’s early spirit but they still lack the simple fluency and data management that Last.fm offered. Market economics, yet again, has given us second best.”