Garage bands, practiced shower singers, local sensations, and other unsigned artists can now get paid through Last.fm's Artist Royalty Progam (ARP). Last.fm announced the service back in a January, and this week the service went live. More than 450,000 tracks have been uploaded to coincide with the launch, and independent artists who register and upload tunes can start accruing royalties any time their songs get played through the site's ad-supported streaming music feature or Web radio.
Martin Stiksel, Last.fm co-founder, said "This is a bid day for independent artists. We're leveling the playing field by offering them the same opportunities as established bands to make money from their music. The young musician making music in a bedroom studio has the same chance as the latest major label signing to use Last.fm to build an audience and get rewarded. The Artist Royalty Program is another revolutionary step towards helping musicians take control of their music -- and, more importantly, make a living from it."
But not everyone is excited about what Last.fm is doing. Merlin, an international rights body that represents over 12,0000 independent labels, spoke out against the service claiming Last.fm's ARP doesn't pay artists retroactively for past plays and is vague as to what rights artists are giving up regarding uploaded music. Merlin calls the wording in the license terms and conditions "ambiguous and open to legal interpretation," and is urging its members to wait for negotiations between Merlin and Last.fm to continue.
Does Merlin have a point, or is this another case of music labels looking out for their own interests rather than the artists?