Feature

Media Lifeline: Last.fm

Attracting 35 million users and a $280m takeover isn't bad for a site hatched in an East-End flat seven years ago.

2002...

At some point during 2002, in a dingy Whitechapel flat, a neat idea begins to coalesce into something that, in hindsight, might be described as a business. Last.fm, whose founders include Felix Miller and Martin Stiksel (though other contributors also claim a formative influence), is an internet radio service delivered via a music community website that can build a profile of a user's tastes by analysing their previous listening histories.

August 2005...

Since 2003, Last.fm had been working closely with Audioscrobbler, an even more sophisticated music profiling operation run by Richard Jones. In 2005, they are fully merged, with Jones cementing his place in the management line-up next to Miller and Stiksel (pictured).

May 2007...

In April, there had been rumours that Last.fm was in advanced talks with Viacom, with a sale price in excess of $400 million being mooted. But, in May, CBS announces that it has bought the company for $280 million - with the existing management, including Miller, Stiksel and Jones, remaining at the helm. It's the biggest-ever buyout of a UK web 2.0 start-up.

July 2008...

Last.fm's site is relaunched (pictured), with the aim of extending its audience from its base of 21 million global unique users and find more profitable ways of monetising this audience. But, in December, 20 (or more) of 95 staff at its Shoreditch offices are axed.

June 2009...

Stiksel, Miller and Jones announce they are to step down later this year. In a joint statement, they say: "The time is right to begin the process of handing over the reins. This is the latest stage in a long journey for us founders, which began in a living room in East London in 2002, and took us to the headquarters of one of the biggest media companies in the world."

Fast forward...

July 2010 In March 2009, Last.fm had explored a joint advertising sell with the rival internet music service Spotify. Now, with CBS's enthusiasm for the sector reportedly waning, there are rumours that Spotify, headed by Jones but still in independent ownership, has entered into negotiations to buy Last.fm for $50 million. But there's every prospect of a bidding war when Viacom, advised by Miller and Stiksel, indicates renewed interest.

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