Last.fm announced this morning that it will "soon" require users outside of the US, UK and Germany to pay 3.00 per month to keep the music rolling. In blog comments on the announcement, the company explained that those three countries were the only ones where ad sales were proving successful enough to monetize the free music that way; elsewhere the money will have to come out of listeners' pockets.The CBS-acquired streaming music service
It's a dramatic move that could pave the way for other media companies to do the same and effectively open up international markets. People complain, but do you think that viewers would pay a similar monthly fee for international access to Hulu, for example? We do.
All the programmatic elements of Last.fm, like the taste-tracking "scrobbling," will remain free anywhere. The company also noted in its blog post that its number of users has doubled over the last year alone and now stands at 30 million per month.
We're still waiting for examples of US customers willing to pay for online services (the iPhone app store is a related example) but it will be interesting to see if the rest of the world is. Last.fm's announcement is an interesting response to the advertising market's belief that only eyeballs from certain countries are "worth" advertising to.
Meanwhile, the vehement insistence by users that every damn thing on the web be free works hand in hand with the rise of over-saturation in advertising. Let's see what kinds of user experience, features and services we can get by paying a little cash - shall we?