The two biggest players in the social music world, Last.FM and Pandora, have been fighting for the love of music lovers worldwide for about two years. While both approaches to the same issue, listening to music online based on the music you already like, were always implemented differently (Pandora via the Music Genome Project, Last.FM via user’s recommendations and data pooling), the basic concept was the same: help people discover new music online and give them the ability to listen to it online.
In my eyes, Last.FM had always been the better service, not least due to their extensive efforts in embracing the whole of the music lover’s world in one big social network (“neighbours” based on taste in music, recommendations – both automatic and manual, discussion groups, event calendar, etc.). Pandora on the other hand really did do a good job when it came to quickly creating so-called “stations” with music you liked, mainly because there was no need to upload information about the music you listen to on your computer beforehand.
Well, the rivalry has now come to an end. Why? Because Pandora is forced to shut out everyone of the listeners who don’t reside in the US. While this was actually part of their TOS when they started, it was enforced only by having to sign up with a valid US ZIP code. But today they announced that due to license complications with all the countries other than the US, filtering out users from outside the US based on their IP will be enforced. They sent out emails to users about the crackdown today (TechCrunch article here), and I actually do believe their sentiment that they are indeed very sorry. Not only because they will deprive their users of the joy that is their excellent implementation of the Music Genome Project, but also because they have just been hit by one of the tentacles of old economy lashing out at their younger and hipper offspring, the new one (you know, economy), effectively destroying their service.
Last.FM, which seems to somehow be able to provide their service without getting entangled in all the license restrictions (or maybe they just don’t care yet), will be the victor emerging from this dirty, dirty episode besmearing the history of the global revolution the social web was actually set out to be (and I need some surgery to remove that sick part of my brain that comes up with these analogies).