Ok so I know my title is misleading because only one music social network has taken the leap so far, but for sure this is a path the music industry’s model is going to take. Announced today is the launch of Last.fm‘s Artist Royalty Program. The behemoth social music site is compensating unsigned artists giving them a percentage of its ad revenue! So artists can now perceive revenue when their songs get streamed, but not downloaded (to see how it works check out the FAQ). Last.fm had already established royalty plans with big acts signed to major labels and collective societies but now it’s opening that door to everyone who owns the copyrights of their uploaded songs, and who subscribe to the program.
A site like Last.fm is a multi-million dollar platform that offers a great free service, but it has also become a reference for music industry executives, bands and music fans alike. Giving back to a community that made it all possible is normal, it’s like offering your mom a decent gift on her birthday, plus its a great way to earn more respect. So kudos to Last.fm both on a business and on a human level. Myspace for instance is far behind on such matters as they still don’t want to offer equity deals to indie bands unaffiliated to a major label or a music aggregator.
Independent artists need new income streams and Last.fm is offering a logical alternative. As of now a band can’t expect to become rich off the program but it’s a start. Wired’s Listening Post blog has more on the subject.