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RAIN 2/8: Last.fm VP says shutting off free mobile streams part of focus on music discovery, CNet reports

Posted on: 02/08/2011


Yesterday CBS-owned Last.fm announced its free customizable radio streams on mobile and home media devices would be off-limits for free users (RAIN coverage here). A day later, more details have come to light while commentators offer analysis.

“It’s hard to say if this is a portent of things to come or simply a business decision,” writes Christopher Breen at PC World.

He worries (here) that Last.fm will be “squeezed from below and above.” Below there’s Pandora, Slacker and a whole host of free Internet radio services. Above there’s on-demand services from Rdio, Spotify, Rhapsody and others that cost just a bit more than Last.fm’s $3/month subscription.

Last.fm’s radio streams will still be free on desktop platforms. Parent company CBS offers free radio streams from its AM/FM stations, Yahoo Launchast and AOL Radio on mobile apps and Radio.com.

Last.fm VP Matthew Hawn, who announced the move, told CNet that the company is focusing on tracking and discovering music and moving away from radio. Last.fm’s “scrobbling” technology tracks what music users listen to in iTunes and other media applications. Last.fm’s website then suggests new music to users based on their “scrobbles” and connects them with other users with similar tastes.

“If I wasn’t working at Last.fm,” said Hawn, “I’d say Last.fm and Spotify should get together and make the world’s perfect music service.” Find CNet’s coverage here.

Finally, yesterday we pondered why Last.fm’s radio streams would still be free on Microsoft’s Xbox and Windows Phone 7 devices. Turns out Microsoft stepped up to subsidize the streams, reports Ars Technica (here). Why? Our guess is still that Microsoft fears lacking (free) Last.fm and Pandora streams on their born-again mobile OS. — MS


Pandora, now with a reported 80 million registered users, “is expected to file for an initial public offering sooner rather than later,” reports Barron’s.

Despite the fact that “digital-music and entertainment IPOs have historically met resistance from investors,” Pandora “has sound institutional venture-capital backing and recently hired former Salesforce.com (CRM) CFO Steve Cakebread as its chief financial officer.” You can read more here.


Jacobs Media’s mobile development division jacAPPS has hired Kate Levy, an iPhone, Android and Windows Phone 7 developer. The division also promoted Scott Holliday to Director of Development and Bryan Steckler to Operations Manager.

Meanwhile, New York Public Radio has appointed Thomas Hjelm as vice president and chief digital officer — a new position. You can find NYPR’s press release here.

Finally, business software company Marketron has appointed Eric Treworgy as Vice President of Sales. He previously served as CEO at STRIVE International.


Livio’s NPR Wi-Fi tabletop radio streams NPR programming along with Pandora channels and thousands of other webcasts (RAIN coverage here). PC Mag put the device through its paces and came away fairly impressed.

The build quality is “excellent,” writes PC Mag and sound quality is decent. The publication didn’t like the price ($150), nor the “antiquated menu system,” but for an NPR fan it’s a great device. Read the full review here.

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