It’s good to be back! A couple years ago, I wrote about the emerging importance of Last.fm in today’s industry and how it can greatly impact the listening experience fans get from their music. From compiling data from your iTunes and Spotify library to keeping you updated on events customized to your library, I was always heavily adamant on everyone joining together in using the app. Sure enough, Spotify optimized Last.fm to run as a complement to the Spotify app so that users could keep their last.fm profiles up to date even while streaming music. Part of me always felt that the unity between these two would grow, and surely enough, we have now come to a point where Last.fm and Spotify completely run each other’s services off one another.
Last.fm fell off the map a few years ago when its then-limited streaming capabilities paled in comparison to emerging competitors like Pandora and Spotify. It was back in the day when music still had a debatable price tag on it; companies refused to admit that the future of music was in free streaming. Of course, now the business model has been completely workshopped, and Last.fm has done, in my opinion, what it needed to do to survive: it has utilized the well-known Spotify to bring back its once-waning forte of streaming services.
Before the merge, listeners wouldn’t be able to listen to a specific song on Last.fm, unless the artist was offering it for free through promotion, or if the user had a subscription. Now, you can just head on over to your Last.fm library, click on any artist, and, as long as the track is Spotify-endorsed, listen to any track as you please. Once you do, a Spotify toolbar will appear in your browser, managing your audio stream for you. It’s a simple move that has revitalized Last.fm’s website.
Of course, these two have been working into each other for a while now. Last.fm accounts are now accessible directly in the Spotify listening application as a part of the official Last.fm Spotify app. Just go on ahead under the “App Finder” category in the left toolbar and you can access a streamlined version of your Last.fm information, through Spotify. Let’s also not forget that scrobbling features from Spotify can still be enabled from the preferences section.
The question now arises: what is in the future of Last.fm’s radio features? I remember the radio war between Pandora and Last.fm, and it should be noted that the Last.fm Scrobbler app still will not play radio without an account subscription. It brings up a point that Last.fm has merged with a company that just has a better business model. Subscribing to last.fm just guarantees you a decent quality radio stream, but you can get that out of Spotify for free. A subscription to Spotify also gives you playlists you can use during offline mobile access. Let’s also not forget the free radio services offered by both Pandora and the developing iTunes Radio. So, to me, it just sounds a lot like a “if you can’t beat them, join them” effort from Last.fm. Don’t get me wrong, both of these companies are largely responsible for my satisfactory music listening experience in the past few years, so, while this is a dream come true for me, it’s hard for me to see the bigger picture with Last.fm at the moment.
My guess is that Last.fm will just have to keep merging itself slowly into Spotify. I can’t imagine its subscription feature keeping it on its feet when its users are referred directly to a better service in Spotify. There are still a lot of personalized features that Last.fm offers almost exclusively, but these are all free, and, as I wrote before, we all know that free in the music industry should be always looked upon as a contingency plan, not a means to an end.