Why Last.fm played music today

Really interesting debate on today's Internet radio Day of Silence happening over at the Last.fm blog. Last.fm, as one of the biggest and most widely known web streamers, has long been conspicuously absent from the gaggle of protesters. Blogger Felix Miller goes a long way in his post to explain the London company's position, and is surprisingly patient and polite in the comments to those who (at times aggressively) disagree.

Lengthy quote below, but I really recommend you check out the entire post.

We do not want to punish our listeners for our problems, period.

If a commercial challenge comes up, we have to deal with it. We have always done that, as many people who have been using Last.fm for a while can attest to. And we’ve had our fair share of challenges. (Like the server growth problems we’ve been battling recently. Mischa was overheard grumbling that “we’ve probably put in two days of silence!” over the last couple weeks; a heartfelt thanks our users for their patience.)

Since Last.fm started we’ve engaged in negotiations with the music industry, leading to our recently reaching an agreement with several major record labels for the use of music on our service. As a legal and responsible provider of music, we’re continuing discussions with record labels and music publishers. At the same time, we’re negotiating with royalty collection societies to make sure we can get rates that make sense to us.

The only solution to this dilemma is commercial; make a commercial argument and see it through. What benefit does music have if no one is playing it anymore? There are various opinions about the promotional benefits of playing music on the radio, but having your music heard by more people instead of less can’t be wrong, no?

What I am saying is: it’s in no one’s interest to let online radio die. But people want to make money from their music. And we want to pay artists for the music we play. It’s only fair.

We think – and this is the opinion of the whole Last.fm office, who you can meet on our lovely team page – that turning off the radio is just plain wrong. This has been a no-brainer from day one for us: the users rule, and we serve them. If only one person wants to listen tomorrow, we should serve them. I for one want to listen every day.

Online radio won’t die in a hurry, but it will be hard work. And we don’t deal in silence.

It's hard to argue with the logic here, if logic is the way you like to argue. Last.fm is a big company, now owned by a much bigger company, and as such they have no choice but to abide by the rules. Royalties in every other country they stream to have been a reality for some time, and they have the clout to be able to negotiate more favorable rates than the CRB-imposed ones with most of the major copyright holders. And it's an admirable thing these days to grind though a tough situation with nothing but elbow grease, rather than cry about it as the Last.fm'ers seem to suggest everyone else is doing.

Still, it would have been nice to see the big guy stand alongside the little guys today.

Because unfair rules are not good rules, and none of SoundExchange's press releases have convinced me that these rules are anything but a moneygrab.

Because it shouldn't be incumbent on a fledgling industry that hasn't even figured out its business model yet to prop up a matured industry that's lost its way.

Because the judges that comprise the CRB have made it abundantly clear that they don't understand the technology they're ruling about.

Because if the day of silence works Last.fm will benefit handsomely from the reprieve.

Because because because...

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