I’ve been thinking a lot about CBS’ acquisition of last.fm since I first posted about it last week. Maybe it’s because I’m totally obsessed with the music discovery and listening service, or it’s that I’m really unsure as to whether CBS has good intentions for the company other than finding a means to further its own terrestrial radio services further.
But there are a few possibilities that could play out here. I can’t deny that however it plays out, it’s good for the last.fm team, that’s if they actually get to stay on as promised in the deal (or even want to stay on once the true business model is set in place). For one, it makes last.fm stand out from the pack, especially from one if its fiercest competitors, Pandora.
In a recent ScobleShow video interview, Pandora’s CTO, Tom Conrad, talks about his Internet radio service developing a mobile service. This is an area that last.fm has yet to tap, and perhaps the deal with CBS could make it possible. Last.fm already supersedes Pandora in technological developments with the creation of a desktop radio player, the ability to scrobble — sync — tracks played on your iPod, and a plethora of customizable widgets for use on blogs and social networks like MySpace. There’s even integration with Facebook. Last.fm is transforming the way people listen to, track, and discover music. The company is a technological wonder, so CBS has a really good deal on its hands.
But something else I heard in the Pandora interview on ScobleShow made me realize just how beneficial this deal is for the future of last.fm. There’s a movement afoot from the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) to annihilate Internet radio in the form of higher fees charged for playing recorded music, which means that the little guys — the ones who offer free or suggested donation services — wouldn’t be able to thrive. In last.fm’s case the CBS deal could bring a heavy influx of cash in order to keep it alive and playing Internet radio stations based on user’s musical preferences.
Things could even be better for CBS. Last.fm could integrate really well into its online Viacom properties, such as MTV.com or VH1.com. Last week I spoke with a senior producer at a major media company who expects that last.fm will become a part of MTV.com’s social network, making a more music and videos accessible to users. “It gives the waning MTV.com audience a place to play that is different (and better) than MySpace Music, and stops the MTV.com brand’s downward spiral of staleness,” he said.
Truth is we won’t really know what CBS plans to do with last.fm until it does it. In the meantime I’ll keep speculating and talking to experts in the industry about it. Check back in few months to see what really happens.