With the news that last.fm is shutting down their streaming online radio, I’m wondering exactly what changes in the music environment have forced them to rip the heart out of their service.
Are the majors demanding too much in licencing fees for the thing to be viable? Remember that it’s not stream-on-demand in the style of Spotify, so it should not cost as much. Or, more cynically, did last.fm’s major label owner deliberately decide to kill what had once been a useful music discovery tool because they don’t like people discovering independent music?
Or maybe last.fm has just had its day? Back in the days before their radio went behind a subscription paywall I used to listen quite a bit, and it played a lot by independent bands. That fed into a lot of CD purchases, and I spent a lot of time curating the wiki entries for bands. But nowadays a combination of social media and sites like Reverbnation and Bandcamp seems to be filling that role. The social side of Last.fm has more or less faded away as Twitter and Facebook have grown, and they never did resolve the artist disambiguation issue in their database.
All last.fm really does now is scrobbling and statistics collecting, and I’m not convinced that has much value unless it’s feeding into some sort of music recommendation that last.fm itself no longer provides. Yes, I know they’re still got a web-based music player, but all that does is play YouTube videos, and is not fit for purpose in it’s present form; too many of the videos are abysmal-quality fan-uploaded mobile phone footage from gigs, or worse, bedroom karaoke performances that don’t feature the actual artist at all.
Does last.fm’s scrobbling data still have any value for independent artists now, or is it time to stick a fork in the site?