Will I still be a Last.fm user two years from now?
Social music site Last.fm has been bought by US media giant CBS Corporation for $280m (£140m), the largest-ever UK Web 2.0 acquisition.
The online network was founded in the UK five years ago and it now has more than 15 million active users.
(Source: BBC News)
I joined Last.fm just coming up to two years ago. As a music nut (my collection is currently 211gigs, all legal!), Last.fm is perfect for me. I can see a ridiculous amount of stats about what I listen to and, even better, spy on what other users are rocking. I’ve got many great music tips from other Last.fm users.
The buyout by CBS makes me feel a little wistful. I don’t think the site will go major-corp horrible overnight but the truth is, anything that major corps touch, they make shit. It’s the reverse Midas. These companies, by definition, deal in the volume, bland end of everything. What big companies give you is bland product at low, low prices. McDonalds = bland food, Sony = bland music, Ford = bland cars.
If you want innovation, excitement, revolution, you have to look at independent, small companies. Whether it’s indie labels or little restaurants, Tesla Motors or Last.fm, the good stuff comes from outside the corporate bullshit world.
So… when the good stuff gets noticed, it gets bought. Just as the majors swallowed all the indie labels in the ’90s and made them unbearably shite (compare Creation pre-Sony to post), all the most brilliant web companies are getting bought by Murdoch or, in this case, CBS. On the Last.fm forums, the reaction is pretty much as you’d expect: paranoid lefty users versus hipper-than-thou, petit-bourgeois kids, spouting right-wing flummery.
The big companies are too slow and stupid to innovate themselves, they just sit around burping and scratching their arses till someone else does all the work for them. Then they open their substantial wallets.
Maybe I’m wrong, maybe this buyout will be different. Maybe this time, the big company will keep its word and not change anything. Maybe…
The reason I’m particularly wistful is that I don’t think that CBS should be buying Last.fm, I think Last.fm should be buying CBS. CBS is a 20th century anachronism, it’s an old media company floundering in the 21st century. If you probe behind all the PR speak, there are no fresh ideas there. Apart from buying up good stuff someone else thought of, which, hey, isn’t exactly rocket science.
In an alternate reality, Last.fm held out longer, managed to raise more income through ads or new sugar daddies. They expanded their user-base, they branched even more into streaming, letting subscribers access their entire listened library on cellphones anywhere, anywhen. They issued Slim Server and Apple TV clients, they offered paid, secure backup of music libraries. They became the go-to music hub. And, in 2009 or 2010, they bought CBS.
I just wish I lived in that reality.