Last.fm announced today that users in the US, UK, and Germany can now stream full length tracks as well as entire albums straight from the Last.fm social music service. They state they will be paying artists directly and have the support of EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner as well as independent artists.
According to their announcement:
Full-length tracks are now available in the US, UK, and Germany, and we’re hard at work broadening our coverage into other countries. During this initial public beta period, each track can be played up to 3 times for free before a notice appears telling you about our upcoming subscription service. The soon-to-be announced subscription service will give you unlimited plays and some other useful things. We’re also working on bringing full-length tracks to the desktop client and beyond.
Free full-length tracks are obviously great news for listeners, but also great for artists and labels, who get paid every time someone streams a song. Music on Last.fm is perpetually monetized. This is good because artists get paid based on how popular a song is with their fans, instead of a fixed amount.
If this service does well it could help push the major labels into a new service model that serves the customers and the artists. Last.fm was acquired by CBS last spring.