It started off as a reply to the usual Spotify vs Last.fm debate on teh social networks recently. When my reply was getting longer than the rest of the thread, I decided that it should probably belong here.
In context, Spotify is doing the rounds in the media and social networks for reducing their ad-free listening time. In short, for services that one would use... they're asking for £5 a month.
Personally, I'm in the Last.fm camp.
It's £3 for unrestricted listening. Free accounts let you do (almost) everything, access to some free songs provided by kind artists, full streams using the desktop app (which actually just downloads a normal MP3) and a full api to complement other on-demand services such as grooveshark, amazonMP3 and for local/network files, Media Player/VLC support. I also supports scrobbling from Spotify too, jus' sayin'. It won't cut you off from music after 600 minutes in a month.
On Friday, free accounts will notice a few ads, but no requirement to commit in the UK. There's a list of alternatives at . I might have a look at hypemachine, not sure what their model is, but there's a large full width banner saying that it makes last.fm awesome. Their adjective, not mine.
For free, (in the UK) you can stream directly from the last.fm radio service. Pick by artist, tag or user and you are brought into an auto-generated playlist. Once there, your options are to listen, enjoy (and love) the tune, skip to another track of similar audio properties (maybe you've just heard that song too much today), ban the track from ever descending your ears again (this has consequences). As of , you can even pause tracks too, yes an announcement was necessary.
There's even an open source desktop client (written in Qt. Yay!), and corresponding ebuild.
The last.fm API is extensive. It's well documented, the desktop scrobbler serves as a very good example/reference implementation for the API. There are many creative ideas that can be spawned from the API, some are quite exciting. You are even protected from vendor lock-in and are free to do what you want with your data.
The people behind last.fm aren't that evil. They know that people don't like to pay for something that they previously got for free, but they need money too. If you want some of it, they are hiring.
10 hours in a month is a lot for a mobile contract. Not that good for music browsing. In a 30 day month, that is 1 hour for 3 days, or 20 mins per day. That's enough to get me into work, but leaves me deaf for the road back.
I've been with last.fm since the beta, they gave me a few months free subscription. If I'm being honest, it's been really useful having unrestricted access. With a subscription, you can stream to mobile and dedicated hardware.
For £3 a month, unrestricted listening on any device, serendipity in the form of artist profiles and social networks and integration across the board, it's a good deal.
 http://foocorp.org/projects/fm/faq/  http://www.last.fm/about/jobs
 http://www.robertsradio.co.uk/Products/Internet_radios/STREAM83i/index.htm It even has dedicated love/ban buttons.