Mark Slater’s Weblog

Musings about work, life, and all things in between

Last.Fm, the RIAA and Techcrunch

Sunday i woke to find an article written by Eric Schonfeld about an apparent mix up with U2’s latest album due for release at the beginning of March. A copy apparently found its way on to Bittorrent and went racing across the web unchecked. the story gets really interesting when more rumors start to circulate about the RIAA allegedly requesting ‘scrobbling’ data from Last FM.

Scrobbling for those that dont know – is a neat little plug-in that sits in the background of your music player and records (meta) what you are listening to – passing this information to its web applications, where you can share your listening habits with others. Additionally, the web app can make reccomendations of similar music resulting from its analysis of your listening habits.

An unintended outcome of this relationship between you and last.fm, is that they can see what  you are listening to. If it happens to be a u2 track that has not yet been released, and this type of information falls in to the hands of the RIAA, well – not good.

What is also not good is that this has made tracks around the web – and inspite of what i believe is the ‘strong denial’ of the release of any data to the RIAA  by stakeholders at Last.fm, the story continues to mushroom with users beginning to seriously consider un-installing the plug in. This would be deadly for Last.fm as the plug in is the anchor of their service and frankly their value – a value last measured by their sale to CBS for an utterly mind boggling $282 million

If this user erosion gains traction – as it most easily can – an unintended consequence of frictionless business models is the ease of churn – and the data reportedly was NOT handed over – then the media nad the bloggers have succeeded in damaging a business becuase they have alerted the consumer to the ‘possibility’ of such action in the future. Which leads us to the facebook fracas last week over their attempts to change the TOC.

Net, Net here is – if you are contributing to the web – as people are doing now in unprecedented numbers – you might want to think long and hard about what it is your are giving away for free, and what the consequences may well be of this.

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