Apparently the online radio service my (formerly?) beloved last.fm was providing will no longer be free in the future, according to a recent official blog entry. Due to marketing/commercial/licensing decisions, the service will remain free of charge in the UK, Germany and the USA. Subscribers in the rest of the world will have to pay 3 euros per month.
In principle, I couldn't care less for online music. I exclusively listen to my private collection, and only use last.fm to publish the list of tracks I listen to. However, I have a couple of thoughts about it.
The first one is that I think that charging web users according to location should be made obsolete. In Internet each person is just that: a person, an individual, a user. A site could ask me what my preferred language is, to interact better with me (and I could answer whatever, true or false), but my nationality, religion or race should be irrelevant. So much talk about "globalization", and they only use it when it suits them. For example the work market is "globalizable", but Internet is not.
My second thought is that they have been forced to charge money to their users because they have to pay for the right of broadcasting licensed music. My position? Fuck them. Yes, seriously, screw paying for the broadcasting rights! I am seriously fed up with the morons in the music (and film) industry, trying to control the uncontrollable. If I were Last.fm, or a radio station in general, I would broadcast just Creative Commons music, such as that at Jamendo. If you are an artist and want me to broadcast your music, then you should pay me, not the other way around. However, if you provide me with your music for free, I might broadcast it for free, too. Quid pro quo.
I think that radio broadcast of music, or internet sharing, or the CD market, should be completely free of charge (or, in the case of physical formats like CDs, charge just for the price of the physical medium). The musicians should see this forms of broadcast as advertising. The distribution of their music should be as wide as possible, to make them as famous as possible, so that the revenue they get by doing actual work (like performing live) is maximized.
But, hey, that's just my view. What can I do with an industry that asks me to either comply or fuck off? Well, I guess that we, the clients/users should be asking that to the industry, not the other way around. I certainly try to.