CBS buys last.fm

June 18, 2007

This is interesting … CBS (giant radio corporation for those of you who may only know them as a TV network), has purchased last.fm for lots of money … (more than $100 million say the fellow who’s too lazy to look it up).  First reason that this is interesting … all web radio is currently under threat from insane US legislation that will demand large retroactive royalty payments from all web radio.  These payments are so large that they greatly outstrip the revenues of virtually anyone in the web broadcasting business.  Pandora is nervous, NPR is nervous ….  meanwhile, giant corporation is purchasing  one of these companies, albeit one in Britain which may not be under the same threat as US-based Pandora.  I’m hoping that this is an indication that the much-delayed royalty legislation will eventually just be shelved.

The other interesting bit is actually more interesting.  CBS has a very real reason for wanting last.fm and these are often hard to see.  First, CBS does not want to own a streaming music player.  What last.fm does, however, is track the music listening habits of its users.  last.fm keeps track of every little bit of music that you play as well as the stuff that you suggest that you like from their own player. As with many of these services, this one then starts to build a recommendation database from everyone’s preferences and suggests to you whta you might like to hear next.  It works really well, and I have been astonished by the quality of the recommendations coming from this thing.  CBS would also like to be able to see what people like and don’t like (and what fans of one band like in terms of other bands).  They also are able to tell how far you get through a song (since you are able to listen for a bit and then indicate that you hate or love the song and move on). All in all, for people in the business of managing music, something like last.fm would be a huge source of consumer information.  Naturally, some people will also look at this as a privacy issue and will be sensitive about CBS gathering their info … I always think this is a pretty silly concern when all of the info would be anonymous, and would only help a large corporation like CBS, who control a big chunk of the world of music, to actually be more in touch with reality.



  1. Did you see this Techcrunch post on a similar web service MyStrands? I would check it out but I need to build a digital music collection first ; )



  2. I am a longtime last.fm user (well, some 16000 tracks scrobbled, anyway), and somehow, I completely missed this news. My reading says that they got $250 million for the deal. It’s a great service, and the creators deserve whatever success they found. Here’s hoping CBS doesn’t screw it up.

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