Last.fm Beta

23 05 2008

As the first anniversary of its $280 million acquisition by CBS draws near, Last.fm has unveiled a new beta version with a more powerful design and a plan to expand the social music site’s current subscription option.

The site’s little-publicized music subscription service costs $3 per month. In its current iteration, the basic subscription removes ads, shows who’s been cruising your profile, lets others listen to your station and allows faster access during peak usage hours.

Last.fm says it will continue offering this basic subscription, but that an upcoming subscription package will include unlimited access to the catalogs of all four major labels plus 150,000 indie labels and artists. As of now, Last.fm users can listen to any artist/label-uploaded track up to three times for free (songs that have been heard three times will still play on the site’s radio stations).

But this Last.fm beta, currently available only to current basic subscribers, is about much more than just the upcoming subscription package; it involves a full redesign, adding powerful features for playing, sharing and adding music to your library from anywhere on the site.

“Three main concepts driving the UI and feature development for this next-generation Last.fm are: play music, share music and add music,” according to Last.fm’s Hannah Donovan. “We’ve focused on making these three things easier for everyone to enjoy, even your mum.”

To those ends, the site has added a new player at the top of every page that lets you play whatever music is listed there, so there will be “hopefully no more digging around for play buttons and radio stations,” Donovan said. Every music page has also been set up to encourage sharing with friends or adding songs to your library. You can also browse your friends’ libraries and add tracks from there.

In addition, the beta lets users manually add songs and artists to their libraries in addition to having them added automatically, or “scrobbled,” via iTunes or their preferred media player. This will let you expand your music collection purely through Last.fm, rather than acquiring the music elsewhere and scrobbling it into your library.

Extras include an activity feed that let you see what all your friends have been listening to, real-time music popularity charts and podcasts.

If you subscribe to Last.fm, you can enter the beta now. Once the Last.fm team finishes responding to beta testers’ feedback, they’ll make these features available to a wider swath of users (how refreshing — a beta that’s actually a beta, as opposed to an initial release, which is how other companies have been using the term).


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