Well at least it's better than closing its doors outright...
In a perhaps inevitable development Last.fm has today announced it will be forced to start charging customers as it looks to somehow recap its ongoing operating costs. The good news: for now the US, UK and Germany remain exempt!
"Today we're announcing an upcoming change to the way Last.fm Radio works in some parts of the world," said Last.fm creator Richard Jones. "In the United States, United Kingdom and Germany, nothing will change. In all other countries, listening to Last.fm Radio will soon require a subscription of -3.00 per month," confirmed Last.fm creator Richard Jones. "There will be a 30 track free trial, and we hope this will convince people to subscribe and keep listening to the radio. Everything else on Last.fm (scrobbling, recommendations, charts, biographies, events, videos etc.) will remain free in all countries, like it is now."
Quite why the UK, US and Germany get away scot free is beyond me (we are after all still three of the wealthiest nations on the planet) but I suspect this will change in the not too distant future.
Ultimately, a charge - even one as minimal as this - may cause users to grumble but considering the alternative route saw the (arguably even better) Pandora close in the UK over similar financial pressures at least this still gives users a choice.
So who next? Spotify? Facebook? Twitter?
In related and much less sympathetic news the streaming radio service has also announced it will be clamping down on all unofficial third party Last.fm applications. A streaming API will be made available to everyone who has an API account but with the exception of mobile phones ("a limitation of some of our licensing agreements"). That said, I suspect official apps like the Last.fm app on the iPhone will survive.
All changes will be implemented by the end of next week, so it will be interesting to see what is still left standing.