Last.fm – the Blog · Free the Music: "As of today, you can play full-length tracks and entire albums for free on the Last.fm website.
Something we’ve wanted for years—for people who visit Last.fm to be able to play any track for free—is now possible. With the support of the folks behind EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner—and the artists they work with—plus thousands of independent artists and labels, we’ve made the biggest legal collection of music available to play online for free, the way we believe it should be.
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."
What's unclear is whether their subscription service will be streaming only or have some download component. My guess is the former - unlimited on-demand streaming - with continued affiliate relationships with Amazon for iPod compatible downloads.
Now the big question is, just how much advertising are they going to have to put in front of everyone to cover the costs of the on-demand licenses with the labels? I've done some modeling of this in the past, and it's most likely going to need to include some piece of video advertising (see prior post about Truveo/AOL deal). And just how much will consumer put up with before they move on to the next ad-free, business model-free, offering?