“We’re giving the listener free access to what is basically the best jukebox in the world,” said Last.fm co-founder Martin Stiksel.
“The ability to dip into a uniquely broad catalogue from your laptop, home or office computer, and listen to whatever you want for free represents a new way of consuming music.”
Last.fm, which was bought in May of last year by US entertainment powerhouse CBS Corp., offers the service in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany and promised to roll it out globally in coming months.
Last.fm claims it is the first music website to offer free, global, on-demand access to an extensive catalogue of songs from the four major record labels — Universal Music Group, Sony/BMG, Warner and EMI.
“It is clear to us that communities built around great content are increasingly driving traffic and revenue online,” said CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves.
“We acquired Last.fm because music is one of the best ways to build communities on the Internet.”
Last.fm limits to three the number of times any listener can play a particular song, referring them on the fourth try to iTunes, Amazon or another online music seller to buy the work.
Last.fm also announced an “artist royalty” deal for musicians with no record label ties. Unsigned artists can upload their songs to Last.fm, which will pay them each time someone listens to their music.
“We’re building a platform to help redesign the music economy, enabling artists and labels to earn revenue according to how people listen, rather than how they buy,” said Last.fm co-founder, Felix Miller.
“For the first time, anyone can upload tracks and get paid when those tracks are played. It’s a whole different model.”
Last.fm was launched in London in 2002 and uses feedback from members to power a “recommendation engine” steering people to music based on their expressed tastes.
Last.fm reports that it is used by more than 20 million people monthly from 240 countries.